According to Nursing Standard, Northumbria University's OSCE testing centre has undergone a significant expansion, in a strategic move to bolster the healthcare workforce in the UK. This expansion, which has doubled the capacity of the centre, with an investment of £2 million, aims to accommodate up to 22,000 competency tests annually, facilitating the incorporation of more nurses into the NHS.
Originally opened in March 2022 with the capacity to accommodate 7,000 candidates annually, the testing centre quickly exceeded expectations. By the close of 2022, it was conducting approximately 12,000 exams annually.
The expansion was prompted by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which recognised the need to provide more exams to meet the growing demand for nursing professionals. The refurbishment of the existing testing centre has resulted in an increase from 15 to 30 testing bays, with each bay capable of delivering three exams daily.
The university aims to make the additional exams available by the end of 2023.
Norman Franklin, Head of the Centre, expressed the university's commitment to alleviating the strain on the NHS workforce, emphasising the importance of expanding test capacity.
The OSCE, plays a pivotal role in the recruitment process for overseas-trained nurses and UK nurses returning to the profession after a career break.
Jack Bland, Head of Testing Services at the NMC, stressed the vital contribution of internationally educated nursing and midwifery professionals to healthcare in the UK. He explained that the expansion of the testing centre will facilitate the registration of more professionals, ensuring they can deliver “high-quality care.”
There is an urgent need for healthcare professionals in the UK, with more than 43,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England. The government's NHS long-term workforce plan has set an ambitious goal to recruit up to 190,000 nurses by 2037.
The significant expansion of Northumbria University's OSCE testing centre signifies a critical step forward in addressing the shortage of nurses in the UK's healthcare system.