How Australians can get nursing jobs in the UK


There are several new steps to finding a nursing job in Britain. Brit Peacock takes us through them.

The National Health Service (NHS) is considered one of the best and most effective health service systems in the world. Since its incarnation following World War Two, it has seen some wonderful breakthroughs and advances in care and treatment.

With this comes the prestige and privilege you feel and receive when working for the NHS. They are constantly looking for new, skilled and qualified staff to make a difference to people’s lives.


If you are a fully-qualified nurse looking to work in the UK, there are processes you need to go through. October 2014 saw changes in the application processes for those trained outside of the UK and EEA, which you will need to consider before looking for work within the NHS.

First steps
The requirement for working as a nurse in the UK is based on the assessments you get from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Your first step will be to register with this council, which is a legal requirement.

In order to register you must be able to speak and communicate in English and have a minimum score of 7 in each area of the English Language Testing System (IELTS) – even if you speak English as your first language.

You also need to have worked as a fully licenced and registered nurse for a minimum of 12 months and of course have the evidence to support this. Furthermore, if you want to work in a specific area of nursing, your evidence should reflect your expertise in this area.

The application process
When you apply through the NMC, you will initially have to complete an eligibility test to ensure you meet their minimum requirements, that you are who you say you are and have the appropriate character. Once these have been confirmed, you will be expected to pay for and complete a test of competence, consisting of two parts:

  • A multiple choice exam you can complete online at test centres in your country. On completing this you will have to provide identification and proof of your registration for everywhere you have worked, also including your valid references.
  • The next part of the process is essentially a test of your skills and competence. This is known as an Objective-Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and has to be completed in the UK. Here you will face a series of mock scenarios which you are likely to encounter at work. You will be assessed over a period of time and there are six stations for you to deal with. You will only pass if you safely meet the required standards.


Final checks
Once you have passed these rigorous assessments, you will be interviewed for formal identification along with your accompanying documents. Once this is approved and payments are confirmed, you will be sent your registration number or PIN.

Jobs and visas
The hard work isn’t over after this point though, as you will obviously still need to find an actual job within the NHS. Fortunately, there are places designed to help – such as agencies like Nursing Personnel, where you can find a range of jobs across different disciplines and in different UK cities.

Following this, you must apply for and then receive a valid work visa to ensure you can legally work in the UK.

Finally, when all the pieces are in place, you can begin your new nursing role. Good luck!



  1. I’m a Registerd Nurse and Midwife I’m interested in working in UK. I need information about the assessment process of the NMC. Thank You.

  2. Honestly? I went over to the UK in August of this year and it was made so difficult to take all of these assessments it was actually not worth it. One recruitment guy laughed and told me “you need return to Australia” when I told him how much I earned on part time hours in Perth as I’d be on 1/3 the wage in the UK. For those of you who are thinking of going to the UK and attempting the process, this is what you need to know…FACT!

    YOU need to pay around $300 to take the IELTs exam at a test centre
    Only when you have the result of this exam (2-6 weeks later) can you apply online to the NMC
    Once applied online, the NMC can take 6-8 months to get around to viewing your application.
    You then are sent an online exam at some point. If you pass you then travel to the University of Northamptonshire to take the mock day exams at your own expense. This is the only place they hold the exams.
    If you have not recent clinical experience by this time (which could be 18 months after your application) you will need to enrol in a University unit to upskill and this will be at your own expense.
    If you pass all of this and supply appropriate evidence and get deemed suitable for a pin, you will earn around $43000 full time hours as anything from L1-L2.
    Depending on where you live in the UK you will pay on national average $850 pcm for a room in a shared house or if you take the plunge, up to $2000 pcm for a place of your own….

    …..DO THE MATHS!

    I can honestly say that for me, it was too hard, too much drama and there was no way that I could live on the money if I continued the application…I flew home seven weeks later….Amen!

    • Naomi is right about the process being expensive and the wages lower. However I have started the process. I wrote my exam on 12 Dec 2015 and got my result 24 Dec 2015. I promptly went online and started the application and 2 days later I got the Pearson Vue testing reference number and booked and paid $280 for the computer based Test of Competency. I could have sat this next week but I chose to sit it on 2 Feb to give myself more time to practise as I cant afford to fail. So far the process has been really smooth and quick.
      I intend to spend a substantial amount of time in the UK and cant afford not to work, so I will be doing agency work in Emergency which will pay $28 /hr which is $57 ph here in Oz. I will be ahead on base pay but where I will miss out on are the penalties paid here. Even at the regular 20pounds an hour its better than nothing and I worked out I will recover my expenses in around 6 months.
      Application for nursing/midwifery £140
      Part 1 test of competence (CBT) £130

      Part 2 test of competence (OSCE) £992
      Admission onto our register £153
      Total £1415
      Plus travel to the UK and accomm Approx £1500
      Rentals in Sydney are a 500% more than those in Thargomindah but then again their “Thargomindah” is at most 2 hours away by fast train and that’s where I aim to live and not in Kensington!
      All in all it depends on your reasons for going over. .

      • Hi there, i know you posted this some time ago but I’m currently in the process of moving to the UK and wondered how your exams went and how your experience has been so far? It all feels very expensive and involved at the moment so i would love to hear from someone who has actually been through it.

  3. The costs are fairly considerable and the process stringent. However the NHS is fantastic, with the NHS work ethic and training for staff highly focused.

    In fact salary based I feel: better off as: food, clothes and rent is much cheaper. Work wise: I get my lunch breaks and we honour patient staff ratios! Clinically I am much more competent due to constant clinical training and given more nursing responsibilities. I feel when returning to Australia, working in the public sector may become difficult!

  4. I am a UK citizen but I am currently training as a nurse here in Australia. Once I complete 12 months post training I aim to move back to the UK. I have been a bit worried as I read that to gain UK registration I must have covered obstetrics in my nursing degree. My course does not have this component. Any help on if this is actually a set in stone requirement would be appreciated. Many thanks.

    • Sarah, my course also did not offer maternity nursing and paeds nursing was only an elective I didn’t do.
      I sent the NMC an email asking them what will happen if I didn’t have these as part of my curriculum. I actually currently take care of paeds patients and women post-caesarean, so I asked if that counts for anything.
      If I get a decent answer from them I’ll post it here.

      • Hi Gloria, Did you hear back from the NMC? I have the same problem, I spoke to them on the phone but they weren’t very helpful.

        • I had the same problem – after you pass the CBT you can access forms online. A senior nurse has to sign a form saying that you have experience in the missing area.

  5. Hi all, I have just returned from 2 years in the UK working as a recruiter. I can tell you that you do not need to have obstetrics experience to get NMC registration. The experience only needs to be 12 months clinical as RGN post graduation. If anyone has any questions about the relocation and transfer of registration please contact me. I am now based in Australia helping UK nurses return home and anyone that wants to travel and work abroad as a nurse. I can also help with interviews for hospitals that will absorb the cost of registration transfer and offer accommodation/flights if successful in interview and looking for permanent contracts not agency. I’m based in Brisbane so please get in touch if you have any questions. 07 3118 8134.

    • Hi Nina, I’m currently living in Melbourne and would like to speak with you about moving to the UK, tips etc, could I call you? what time suits better for you? many thanks, Denise

    • Hi Nina, I have dual citizenship for UK and Oz … I am originally from the UK. I am about to graduate in May as an EEN (meds/IV). I am aware that the UK does not take EENs and it’s just degree level nurses. I was gutted when I discovered that! Should have done my research.

      I was just worried in case I ever had to move back to UK (family etc) that I would not be able to work as a nurse. Would I have to do IELST even if I am a UK citizen?

      Cheers, Andrea

      • Yes Andrea, you do need to take the IELTS exam.
        I have dual nationality also and there is no way out of taking the exam even if you have qualifications or education from the UK .
        I returned to UK as have family and could not work as an RN or take the ONP due to lack of experience. They are also taking around 18 months to get people to the final exam currently and vetting can take months. You would be able to gain work as a health care assistant in a nursing home and they would get you through the NVQ 2 that you need to legally work as one. To work in the NHS as a HCA, you need a pin from the NMC. Everyone who works in health has to have a pin to work in the NHS. I believe getting a pin to be a care assistant in the NHS is not very traumatic. You would not be able to work as an EN, you would be able to get a senior HCA position though. Look on the NMC website for the requirements of HCA pin.

  6. I am in the same position. I am trying to register and the NMC have said that my degree is missing maternity nursing and paeds clinical experience. I’ve been told that my only options are to either go back to Oz and work in those areas until I’m competent or redo a bachelor of nursing in the UK. I’ve been working as a health care assistant for nearly a year now and absolutely hate it. I’ve been totally put off nursing because of it and have opted for a career change. To make matters worse, most UK degrees are honours degrees and it is almost impossible to get into postgraduate study with a non-honours degree. It looks like I’m going to have to do another undergraduate degree…

    • Hi Sophie,
      I’m really hoping you’ll be able to help me out.
      I’m a recent nursing graduate from Monash University. My personal circumstances have changed quite significantly recently and I am heading over to the UK on a working holiday visa soon.
      I realise I am not eligible to work as an RN because I have only just graduated and don’t have 1 year experience in my home country.
      I was looking at working as a healthcare assistant/aux nurse while I am there. Do you know if this possible for me to do?
      It sounds like you’ve been in the same situation.
      Any help would be greatly appreciated!
      Jess 🙂

  7. Thank you for the replies. I had a reply from the NMC and they said when I go, to apply. I will just have to explain my lack of obstetrics experience but that it shouldn’t be a major problem.

  8. If anyone could advise me. I am UK-born and moved to Australia in 1991. I currently hold an Australian and UK passport.
    I’m an Australia-qualified Enrolled nurse.
    I’m finding a lot of conflicting information on whether I would be eligible to work in the UK or not.

  9. I feel for you Sophie D, as I know your pain only too well!
    I too am a month short of experience and was told that I would need return Oz. I’m glad you can do a course and re-train and totally understand why you are. I’ve had no support either and found it ridiculously hard. Sadly, I can’t even re-train due to lack of income as can’t get a job (probably my age) and I’ve now got spinal issues. It’s totally demoralising to be an HCA or AIN when you see stuff going on and I’m sorry to tell you all that the NHS is NOT nice to work for and it’s broken so badly you will be appalled.

    I was offered a Masters of Nursing to gain a pin in the UK and this was effectively retraining, as the Masters is for anyone with a degree despite subject. You cannot get funding or loans if you have not lived in the UK for three or more years! This course was going to cost $48,000 and on a swinging roster. Without financial help, impossible to do.

    I’m interested to know how U Pilai (comment above) is working with an agency in ED in the UK without a nursing pin as that is illegal! There is no agency here in the UK that will touch an Australian RN without having the UK NMC pin. If there is an Australian agency that will get me work and allow me to work without a UK NMC pin then I’d like to hear about them please as I have found no one, not even agencies!

    Ok, so I’ve made that point clearly. Let me know if you work for an agency that will please, as I’ve not found one in UK or Australia.

  10. Wow, not an easy process!! Is this still the same process if you have a job to go to – a private company which has clinics in both Australia and UK?? I wouldn’t have a hope in hell in passing OSCE’s as I haven’t worked in a hospital setting for years – it would be 10 yrs when we are thinking of heading over to the UK!!


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