UKPHR’s rule and guidance on language control

From 1st April 2017 UKPHR introduced a new rule requiring all future applicants for registration to demonstrate an ability to communicate in English.

Modelled on the General Medical Council’s legislation and guidance, this new rule applies prospectively to future applications for registration (it would apply in future to current registrants whose registration were to lapse and they applied for restoration). The rule applies both to applicants from the EEA (European Economic Area) and from the rest of the world.

The new rule does not apply retrospectively and therefore existing registrants cannot be removed from the register under this rule even if information were to come to light that their knowledge of English was poor (although wider issues of fitness to practise might arise in such instances).

We consulted on the making of this rule, and whilst the number of consultation responses was small, the quality of the responses contributed greatly to improving the rule. We also consulted on draft guidance and again, the consultation responses helped us to improve the guidance.

The rule as originally drafted referred to knowledge of English in the main but adverted to a possible requirement for some registrants to have knowledge of Welsh to occupy some posts in Wales. Now the rule is clear that there is legislation in Wales which applies to these posts and the legislation provides its own compliance arrangements. It is not likely that the Registrar will be asked to rule, on application for registration, on an applicant’s knowledge of Welsh, but the new rule recognises that this is a remote possibility and explains how the Registrar would approach an assessment of a knowledge of Welsh.

The IELTS test score requirement has been reduced from the GMC’s requirement in two respects: (1) an overall score of 7, not 7.5 and (2) an ability for applicants to sit tests twice, not once. These two changes reflect NMC requirements, the NMC having changed its requirements after experience of many applicants being unable to meet the standards initially set – to the detriment of adequate recruitment of nurses and midwives.

As a respondent to our consultation pointed out, after the implementation of this rule it is possible that in the future lapsed registrants seeking restoration to the register will have demonstrated their knowledge of English on a previous occasion (their first registration with UKPHR). The Registrar will take this factor into account, but it is not a decisive factor as the applicant’s circumstances may have changed in the interim.