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Hundreds of NHS nurses suspected of faking qualifications

The case is a reminder of the importance of checking staff qualifications, HR professionals have said -

More than 700 NHS nurses are under investigation for providing suspected fraudulent qualifications.

The nurses involved are thought to have used surrogates to take their qualifying test at Yunnik test centre in Nigeria, allowing them to become registered to work in the UK. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has asked 48 of the nurses already working in the NHS to retake the test, to prove they are qualified to treat patients.  

Those nurses will also face individual hearings to clarify how they took, and passed, the test. 

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The NMC has consequently declared test results by 1,955 Nigerian trained health professionals to be invalid. Of those, the regulator cannot prove that fraud was used for 1,238. The 1,955 health professionals have been given three chances to resit the test, or they will be excluded from the register. 

A further 669 Nigerian health staff applicants to the register are suspected of being fraudulent. Almost all of those applicants have been banned.  

Kate Palmer, employment services director at HR consultancy Peninsula, told HR magazine that it is an employers’ responsibility to ensure employees hold relevant qualifications before they start in a role.  

She explained that offer letters should clearly state the conditions that the offer is subject to, and ask the prospective employee to submit copies of their qualification or certification to ensure that requirements are met.  

Palmer said: “If it later turns out that the employee is not qualified, or you believe that someone submitted falsified qualifications as evidence after they have been hired, then it will be necessary for the employer to carry out a full investigation.” 

This could progress to a disciplinary hearing and, depending on the circumstances, the employee could be dismissed or given a second chance. 

Gareth Martin, solicitor and partner at Olliers, told HR magazine that while employers have a responsibility to protect their employees, they are equally responsible for protecting the public and the reputation of their profession. 

He said: “They [employers] ought to have very clear and deterrent sanctions in place for those who try to gain employment when they are not qualified to do so.” 

Martin clarified that employers should not hesitate to report incidents to regulatory bodies so that appropriate action can be taken – though employees accused of misconduct should be given the opportunity to explain their actions. 

Speaking to HR magazine, Gary McIndoe, managing director of the immigration law firm Latitude Law, said: “The provision of fraudulent documentation – such as false competency test results – is a clear ground for refusal of a UK visa.” 

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McIndoe explained that if fraud is undiscovered by employers until after a candidate enters the UK, immigration law contains provisions for the Home Office to cancel a work visa and the employees’ permission to stay. 

He commended the NMC for taking an evidence-based approach to potential breaches of its rules, comparing this to the approach that the Home Office took to the English language test scandal of the 2010s, where tens of thousands of international students were judged guilty of cheating. 

“The reports have disturbing echoes of the  Educational Testing Service language test scandal, in which many thousands of migrants were caught up in the early 2010s. As recently reported, a blanket approach to alleged breaches through cancellation of thousands of visas led to many genuine overseas students deep in debt and facing removal from the UK.   

“Reassuringly, the NMC appears to be taking an evidence-based approach to potential breaches of its rules, with the Department of Health and Social Care taking its lead from the Council.  

“Contrast this to the Home Office’s approach with language tests, where wholesale revocation of visas took place on what later turned out to be flawed evidence from the test provider.”