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Statement on English language proficiency requirements for internationally trained health and care professionals

22 Nov 2022

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the regulator for 15 different health and care professions in the United Kingdom.

We set the standards required for entry to their Register including requirements for English language proficiency. In this statement, we clarify the current regulatory framework and the important role employers have in ensuring individuals recruited to work from outside the UK are suitably qualified and experienced to take up any roles offered in the health and care sector.

Our approach to assessing English language communication skills for people who qualified and trained outside of the UK who are applying to join the HCPC’s Register

We ask all international applicants applying to join the Register to confirm their English language proficiency. People applying through the Swiss Mutual Recognition (SMR) route do not need to provide evidence of their English language proficiency, unless they are applying to be a speech and language therapist and have declared English is not their first language.  

This approach places the responsibility on the applicant to consider the standards required for entry to the HCPC Register and make a professional declaration about their English language proficiency.

As part of their application, applicants are asked to declare whether English is their first language. Applicants must only answer ‘Yes’ if it is the main or only language that they use on a day-to-day basis. Having studied English or undertaken higher education that was taught in English is not sufficient for an applicant to claim that English is their first language.

When English is not an applicant’s first language, they must provide certified evidence of a completed test which demonstrates they meet the minimum required levels for their relevant profession. An applicant will not be accepted for registration with us until this requirement can be satisfied.

We currently recognise two English language tests with the following scores achieved as a minimum:

International English Language Testing System,
IELTS (academic or general)

  • minimum score of 7.0 with no element below 6.5, or 8.0 with no element below 7.5 for speech and language therapists

Teaching of English as a Foreign Language,
TOEFL (internet based test not undertaken in the UK)

  • minimum score of 100/120, or 118/120 for speech and language therapists

Applicants may choose to undertake a different test from the two set out above. Where this is the case, the test certificate must be accompanied by a statement from the test provider which confirms that the result achieved is comparable to the required IELTs level set for the relevant profession.

More information on our requirements can be found here


Plans to review the current approach

The current approach to assessing English language proficiency for international applicants to the HCPC Register has been in place for several years. We are reviewing this approach to assessing English language proficiency. This will consider when and how applicants demonstrate their English language communication skills when applying for registration. We will also consider the approaches other regulators take to support greater alignment where possible and appropriate.

We are carrying out stakeholder engagement activities which will inform a wider consultation planned to run from Autumn 2023, with implementation beginning from Spring 2024 at the earliest.


Employer responsibilities when recruiting international applicants

Recruitment from outside the United Kingdom has increased significantly in the past 12 months. Any employers and partners supporting these recruitment efforts must consider the current regulatory framework in place when assessing applicants’ suitability for a particular role in their organisation.

Employers should be aware of their responsibility to ensure individuals meet their requirements including any specific requirements they have regarding communication in their workplace setting.

As is the case for any newly recruited person, tailored induction programmes may also be needed to ensure individuals can safely transition to practice in the UK context.

We regularly deliver ‘Joining the UK workforce’ events designed for international registrants who have recently registered with the HCPC. These are designed to support the transition to UK practice, by considering some of the ethical issues that registrants may come across in practice or may have encountered already.

More information about this is available here

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Page updated on: 08/08/2023