GUIDE: How to Come and Work in the UK as A Health Professional-Nurses, Pharmacists, Laboratory Technicians & Others

5 min

Nurses are on the current UK’s Shortage Occupation List.

The UK’s Shortage Occupation List is an official list of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers in the UK to fill available vacancies. This means, there are so many jobs available within these occupations but not enough people in the UK to fill them. Hence, professionals from these occupations can easily relocate to the UK to work under the scheme.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reviews the Shortage Occupation List and calls for evidence of which occupations should be included or be removed.

Nurses in Ghana

Though the process of coming to work in the UK as a professional under the Shortage Occupation List is somewhat easy, there seems to be the absence of any step-by-step guide—and this publication will attempt to provide such a guide for nurses.

While this article may mention nurses throughout, it must be noted that the UK Government on 04 March 2021 announced changes to the Immigration Rules designed to make it easier for overseas health and care staff to come and work in the UK. Therefore, several other health professionals were added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) including:

  • Pharmacists
  • Laboratory Technicians
  • Senior Care Workers
  • Nursing Assistants
  • Health Services and Public Health Managers and Directors
  • Residential, Day and Domiciliary Care Managers
  • Health Professionals not elsewhere classified, such as Audiologists and Dental Hygiene Therapists.

To be able to come and work in the UK, you required a special visa, under what is known as the Skilled Workers Visa (formerly known as Tier 2 Visa).  For one to obtain this visa, you must get 70 points during the assessment of your application.

And automatically, if you a professional within an occupation under the Shortage Occupation List, you acquire 20 points. That means by just being a qualified nurse or pharmacist, you already have 20 points out of 70 points.

Then there are the mandatory criteria which are worth 50 points– being:

  1. A job offer from an approved employer sponsor (20 points)
  2. A job at the appropriate skill level (RQF 3 or above – A-level equivalent) (20 points)
  3. The ability to speak English to the level set appropriate to the role (10 points)

Once you add the 20 points to the 50 points above, you get the 70 points required to obtain the Skilled Workers Visa.

Before you can practise in the UK as a nurse, you must first complete your nursing program in Ghana by an NMC accredited nursing school and you must have passed your nursing license exams in Ghana.

Once you have achieved the above, you must professionally be registered with the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).  This is something you can do online. However, to be successful with the UK NMC registration, you will be required to prove your evidence of English proficiency through IELTS or OET

The UK’s NMC states on its website that:

We will accept an IELTS Academic examination certificate that confirms you achieved:

  • an overall score of at least 7, and
  • at least 6.5 in the writing section and at least 7 in the reading, listening and speaking sections.

We accept both the paper-based and computer-based IELTS Academic test delivered at a test centre.”

Once you have successfully obtained the required English proficiency level, the next examination you are required to pass to get registered with the UK’s NMC is the Computer Based Test (CBT) and OSCE which is evidence of your knowledge and skills.

Just like the IELTS, the CBT will be taken in Ghana (your home country) but OSCE will be taken when you arrive in the UK. Your employer will help you with the training for the OSCE and registration.

Most countries do not currently have OET centers to take this examination therefore IELTS is what most people take.

After passing the IELTS and CBT, UK’s NMC will request a third party verification from your home country’s NMC and also for a Police Clearance. After this is done, you are eligible to start applying for jobs to either NHS/UK Hospitals or Care Homes which have the required license to sponsor foreign workers.

Note that, the NHS has the required license to sponsor foreign health professionals on the Shortage Occupation List—so the easiest bet is to head to their jobs website and comb through the many advertised vacancies.

Talking about finding a job, there are two ways to it. You can either apply directly to an NHS hospital through the NHS job site or you can apply through a recruitment agency. But the best and easy option is to apply directly through the NHS job site.

The employers (hospitals) which will be interested will reach out to you, schedule you for an interview and when you are successful, you will be offered the job.

In the job offer, your contract will be stated which includes the position you are offered, salary, number of hours per week you are required to work, leave entitlement, and all other relevant information you need to have.

If you are happy with the offer, you will accept the offer by signing the contract.

After signing the offer, your employer will request some documents from you in order to complete your process and also issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which is the document you will use to apply for the required visa.

Since your visa enabling you to come and stay in the UK will be for more than 6 months, you will have to take a TB test and add the result/certificate to your application.

When the visa is issued, then you are on your way to the UK. All you have left is to get ready to fly to the UK and start work.

If you are wondering where you will stay, your employer (at least most) will give you free accommodation for a period. It will also be stated in your offer letter the number of months you will be accommodated for free so do not worry about accommodation.

Are you worried about the cost of your flight? Some employers will book the flight ticket for you, others will let you book but they refunded to you as soon as you arrive in the UK. All you have to do is present your receipts.

The other good thing is that all exams fees and expenses you spent during your UK NMC registration will be refunded by your employer.


Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, Esq

I am a UK-trained and based qualified lawyer/solicitor. I specialize in UK Immigration Law, Civil Litigation, Employment, and Family Law.

When it comes to UK Immigration Law, I mostly represent those coming to the UK to study, visit, settle or work–by representing them in their various applications, appeals, Administrative Review and Judicial Review.

If you need legal representation in securing a visa to come to the UK or overturning a refusal via Appeal, Administrative Review or Judicial Review, contact me via Whatsapp/Direct Call: +447837576037 or E-mail: [email protected].

You should only contact me in relation to the above if you have received a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK employer and you need help applying for the required visa to enable you to travel to the UK.

Note that, under the Skilled Worker’s Visa route, you are also allowed to bring your partner and children to the UK to join you–and I can assist with this.

The Skilled Worker’s Visa route also leads to Settlement (Permanent Residence) in the UK.

Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri,Esq
I am Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, a lawyer, a thinker, a writer and something like a legal polymath based in the United Kingdom; I hold 2 Master’s degrees in Law; International Human Rights Law (LL.M) and Legal Practice Course (LL.M) from University of Leicester and Nottingham Law School--and also a degree in Law (LL.B). I currently work at Adukus Solicitors in London--where I use my legal brains to kick real ass, for the good of my clients and humanity. Contact: [email protected] [email protected]