BusinessDay

Ease of migration sees Nigerian nurses in UK hit 5yr high

The number of Nigeria-trained nurses on the register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the United Kingdom (UK) rose by 54.4 percent to 4,310 in March 2021, the highest in five years, compared with 2,792 in March 2017.

The rise in the number of Nigerian nurses migrating to the UK can be attributed to the cheap and easy entry migration requirements of the country facing shortage of nurses.

This growing migration of nurses who serve as a critical function in the healthcare system could further lead to negative consequences for Nigeria’s struggling health sector that do not have enough nurses to cater for its expanding population.

Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigerian registered Recruitment and Training Consultancy, says Nigeria will have fewer nurses available to take care of its citizens in the health sector because the country is losing its talented nurses to an economy that is willing to pay more and give them a better living quality.

“The truth is Nigerians are being trained in Nigeria and by the time they do their conversion to be a registered nurse in the UK, they will be paid more and their quality of life will be better,” Oyelade states.

The primary role of nurses makes them the most important part of the healthcare system, as they are always with the patient at every stage of the care process, tending to them, counselling the ill and improving healthcare processes.

In 2020, Nigeria had 1.2 nurses and midwives and 0.4 physicians for every 1,000 inhabitants, slightly higher than the sub-Saharan African average but worse than many of its regional peers such as Ghana, Namibia, and Zambia, as well as structural and aspirational peer countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

Nursing shortages lead to errors, higher morbidity and mortality rates. According to the World Bank, Nigeria has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with 117 deaths per 1,000 live births.

“The health sector will be in shambles because many quack nurses will enter the profession. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. They are the ones that take care of patients. So, when they are now less it will affect the system,” Okechukwu Ekemezie, a medical doctor, says.

UK has always faced a severe shortage of healthcare workers, especially in its National Healthcare System (NHS) due to an aging population, and increasing cases of chronic and lifestyle diseases. But the COVID-19 pandemic heightened its shortages.

Read Also: Nigerian nurses fleeing to UK hit 4yr high

NHS vacancy statistics for UK show that, as of June 2021 there were 38,952 registered nurse vacancies across the health service. This figure reflects a 12 percent increase from 34,678 in March 2021, and a rise of 3 percent from June 2020 (37,760).

Also, data from The King’s Fund state that the UK has a lower number of doctors and nurses compared with other European countries. In the UK, there is one doctor for every 356 people. In contrast, in other similarly developed countries, there is one doctor for every 277 people.

These shortages have been on the front burner for the UK’s successive governments, making the country a net importer of healthcare professionals.

In 2020, the new Conservative government pledged to increase nurse numbers by 50,000 over the next five years, and offered additional cost of living support of £5,000.

Last year, the UK announced a Health and Care Visa policy. This visa policy aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to come go to the UK.

“I am not surprised because this year alone, about 6,000 nurses and 355 doctors have left the country in the last 100 days. The recruitment requirements are lower for nurses. If you don’t put value in something, people will leave,” Steve Ahubelem, a medical officer at the General Hospital – Ibeju-Lekki, states.

In a recent tweet, @jajaPhD, a Nigerian self-funded MSc student of nursing, decided to take up a Msc course as it would guarantee him higher chances of getting a job as a nurse.

“My friend advised me to take a detour – study nursing so that I’m guaranteed a job, work for a few years to repay my loan, and then return to study whatever I really wanted when the stakes are not so high. It was the single most valuable advice I received in 2018,” he tweeted.

“The UK government is looking for nurses to take care of the influx of patients that they have,” Oyelade says.

Nigeria’s intellectual capability in its medical profession has projected the country into the limelight. Outstanding individuals such as Oluyinka Olutoye, Joseph Ladapo, Njideka Udochi, Onyema Ogbuagu, etc, have worked hard to distinguish themselves and have earned the respect of their contemporaries in countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, etc.

In 2016, Olutoye, a renowned fetal and paediatric Nigeria born surgeon successfully operated on a baby-in-utero. For this ground-breaking feat, he was appointed surgeon-in-chief at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the US. He now leads one of the largest children’s hospital surgery departments in the world.

Udochi is a graduate of medicine from the University of Nigeria with over 33 years’ experience. The Nigerian-born physician became the very first black female to emerge Family Physician of the Year in Maryland, United States. This award was bestowed on her by the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians (MDAFP) in 2021.

Another exceptional medical practitioner is Ogbuagu. He is an associate professor of medicine in the clinician-educator track and director of the HIV clinical trials programme of the Yale AIDS Programme, Section of Infectious Diseases of the Yale School of Medicine. He was recently recognised as one of the researchers instrumental in the creation of the Pfizer vaccine for the infamous COVID-19 virus.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor’s Ron DeSantis appointed Ladapo as Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health. He is a physician and health policy researcher whose primary research interests include clinical trial interventions and reducing the population burden of cardiovascular disease.

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