Nigeria fraud case: four nurses struck off by NMC

Four nurses have now been struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register due to their involvement in a fraud incident at a testing centre in Nigeria.

It comes as the NMC found last year that widespread fraud had taken place at Yunnik Technologies Test Centre in Ibadan, Nigeria, which hosts tests for international nurses seeking to apply for UK registration.

“There are things that we have already learnt that we’ve built into our processes [and] we will continue to do that”

Andrea Sutcliffe

Alongside investigating the individual nurses involved, the NMC commissioned an internal audit into its handling of the incident, which has found that the NMC needs to “get stronger” at identifying organised fraudulent activity.

The fraud at Yunnik Technologies Test Centre was uncovered after the NMC was alerted to anomalous data coming from the site.

Yunnik is a third-party test centre, overseen by test provider Pearson VUE, that provides the computer-based test (CBT) of competence for the NMC.

The CBT makes up one of two parts of the test of competence that some international nurses have to complete as part of their NMC application.

A probe revealed that 48 current registrants and 669 applicants were believed to have obtained their test result fraudulently at the Yunnik test centre.

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Hundreds more nurses who took their test at the centre, but are not suspected of fraud, were affected, as they were told they would need to resit their CBT test.

The NMC has since been trying to remedy the situation, including holding fraudulent entry hearings for the 48 cases where registrants were suspected of obtaining their test fraudulently.

The regulator’s most recent council papers outlined that, to date, it has held nine fraudulent entry hearings.

Of those, four have found that entries to the register were fraudulent and, as such, the NMC has been instructed to remove the individuals from the register.

The other five hearings have been adjourned and will resume at a later date.

The NMC said it would begin scheduling the next set of hearings from late June.

Meanwhile, the regulator’s assistant registrar has refused 124 applications from people whose CBT test result was believed to have been obtained fraudulently at the Yunnik centre.

The NMC said a “significant number” of these individuals were choosing to appeal this decision, or make a new application.

“What we are going to be doing is having an overall review of fraud”

Deborah Harris-Ugbomah

Of the 467 registrants who needed to retake their CBT, but for whom the NMC did not have concerns about fraud, 454 have successfully retaken their test and their cases have been closed. The remaining 13 have booked their test but have not yet taken it.

At a meeting of its governing council, held yesterday, the NMC discussed the issue of CBT fraud and what lessons can be learned from the incident at the Yunnik testing centre.

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NMC chief executive and registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe, noted that the regulator had undertaken an internal audit to uncover issues that it could “usefully learn from”.

Ms Sutcliffe explained that the NMC was going to wait until it had heard all of the fraudulent entry hearings before it published the findings of the audit, however she did note one of the main findings.

“The key thing that came out of the internal audit was that we were very good on individual candidate identification of fraud,” she said.

Andrea Sutcliffe

“What we needed to get stronger at, and I think in the situation that we faced here, was the sense of there being organised fraudulent activity at a greater scale than the odd individual not doing the right thing.”

Ms Sutcliffe noted that the NMC had already begun implementing some measures to “ensure greater scrutiny and security measures where testing is happening” and that Pearson VUE was collaborating on this.

“There are things that we have already learnt that we’ve built into our processes [and] we will continue to do that,” she added.

Meanwhile, the NMC is also set to launch an overall review into how it handles fraudulent activity, particularly around the use of third parties and the risk they can pose to the integrity of the register.

Deborah Harris-Ugbomah, a lay council member who was appointed earlier this month, will be leading on this work as the new chair of the audit committee.

“What we are going to be doing is having an overall review of fraud,” she said at the NMC Council meeting.

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“It’s a theme that I think the audit committee can provide the council with assurance on.”

Separately, the NMC’s updated corporate plan for 2024-26 also acknowledged the impact of the fraudulent activity and, as such, has promised to “strengthen the integrity of the register”.

As part of this, the NMC has promised to improve its international registration processes and controls, to ensure that all internationally educated professionals have the right skills and experience.

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