SLC delivers successful UK pilot of healthcare-specific English test

A pilot of the Occupational English Test (OET), delivered by Specialist Language Courses, has achieved excellent results, with five out of six participants achieving four grade Bs. This is the required standard by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to register and practice in the UK. The NMC recognised OET in November 2017 as an official assessment of whether an international nurse has the appropriate English language skills to practice safely and effectively in the UK.

Specialist Language Courses (SLC) design, write and publish digital courses for students and professionals to learn English that is specific to occupations such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy and care. This provides the students with an in-depth, current grasp of the English language, allowing them to transfer their professional skills to any English-speaking country. SLC delivers the OET, which is specifically designed for healthcare professionals and uses real-world healthcare scenarios to ensure candidates have the required English skills to deliver safe and effective patient care. The company is the first training organisation in Europe to become an OET-accredited Premium Preparation Provider.

The pilot involved eight nurses based in the UK, India and the Philippines, who were selected from four NHS Trusts. The four UK nurses were working as Health Care Assistants at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. Each of the nurses received 100 hours of tuition over 10 weeks, meeting their teacher in the SLC online classroom for two hours every week day. They were also given homework, which varied according to their specific needs. None had seen or taken OET before. A full case study is available to download from the SLC website.

SLC Director Peter Rodway said: "Five out of six first-time passes is an excellent result and a very encouraging sign that the NMC’s decision to recognise OET was the right one". Bethan Edwards, SLC Academic Director, added: "The feedback from students about their working life was overwhelmingly positive. They said they felt more confident when interacting with patients, better equipped to plan and structure a conversation and crucially, they noticed a positive difference in the reactions from their patients."

Sujata Stead, CEO of Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, the owners of OET, said, "Congratulations to both the successful candidates and SLC on these excellent results. While we are delighted, we are not surprised. Candidates and employers alike tell us time and again that OET is a valid proof of English proficiency and that OET alumni enter the workplace with increased confidence and the communication skills required to ensure patient safety and quality care."

OET was designed in the late 1980s and has been used in Australia for many years. In addition to Australia and the UK, OET is recognised by healthcare boards and councils in Ireland, New Zealand, Dubai and Singapore. The test may be taken every month in more than 40 countries.

A report published by SLC last year suggested that overly stringent English language tests were potentially leading to increased nursing shortages.