A potential fraud risk has been identified whereby a number of trainee nurses from overseas are alleged to have submitted false International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificates.

  • IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council; International Development Program (IDP) IELTS (Australia); and Cambridge University Press & Assessment. The IELTS is designed to assist individuals to work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language.
  • A person’s ability to listen, read, write and speak in English is assessed during the IELTS test which is graded on a scale of 1-9. A person applying for a UK visa to work, study or live in the UK, will be required to prove their knowledge of English by taking the test.
  • The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) accept two language tests as evidence that candidates have ability to communicate effectively in English: The International English Language Test System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET).
  • Candidates who opt to undertake IELTS testing will obtain a certificate (with a minimum score) for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) purposes. The IELTS, therefore, allows a person to enter the country to work in the healthcare sector in a sponsored role and to register with the NMC to obtain a PIN.
  • IELTS provide a free online results service which all NHS bodies can register and routinely access to check the validity of a certificate. Currently 41 NHS bodies in the United Kingdom have signed up for the IELTS online results service indicating that many NHS bodies are either not aware of the service or rely on assurances from a recruitment provider, a candidate agent, or the NMC.
  • Whilst some NHS bodies may rely on third party assurances it is strongly recommended that all organisations implement a process whereby the IELTS online results service is utilised to verify all IELTS certificates during the recruitment process. This approach would not only prevent the NHS from sponsoring and employing international nurses who do not have a genuine certificate or the minimum level of English language competencies, but would significantly reduce the risk of fraud and clinical risks across the NHS. The same principle applies for Occupational English Test (OET) certificates.
How to protect your organisation from fraud:
  • NHS International Recruitment Teams should register for access to IELTS online results service by visiting: Organisations form (ielts.org)
  • Further details in respect of OET validation checks can be found by visiting: Results Verification Access Form – Formstack
  • Once registration has been completed the NHS organisation should ensure that all submitted IELTS or OET certificates are validated during the recruitment process using the online tools available.
  • Although this fraud has been identified within the healthcare sector, all sectors who receive IELTS certificates should consider the same verification process.

For further discussion and support, including fraud awareness training services, contact: fraud@tiaa.co.uk