Nigerian nurses joining UK workforce hit all-time high
The number of Nigerian nurses that joined the UK workforce in the six-month period from April to September 2021, is more than any time in history and this is despite a ban on ‘active recruitment’ of health and social care personnel from Nigeria.
BusinessDay’s analysis of data from the register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the United Kingdom, shows that a record 1,334 Nigerian trained nurses joined the workforce between March and September 2021. For context, within the same period of 2017, only 23 Nigeria-trained nurses joined the UK workforce. With the recent addition, there are now 5,612 Nigeria-trained nurses in the UK, a 51 percent increase within four years from 2,792 as of March 2017.
A code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel in England lists Nigeria among countries that should not be targeted for recruitment by agencies who secure the services of nurses willing to work in the UK. However, individual nurses are allowed to find jobs and other opportunities on their own, and despite the lack of active recruitment are leaving Nigeria in numbers never seen before.
As noted in previous reporting by BusinessDay, poor pay, often also paid late, unsatisfactory conditions of work, perceived low appreciation, and the generally poor quality of life in Nigeria have made seeking employment in places like the UK attractive for nurses and other health workers in Nigeria. The pay is also in many cases, more than 10 times what they currently earn in Nigeria.
“Apart from the monetary aspect which is far better than peanuts Nigerian Nurses earn, I would say a lot of nurses want better lives, better environment, a government that works, supports and fights for its people,” said Ayomiposi, a nurse who at the time of this interview in January was still trying to leave Nigeria, but now in the UK. “A lot of hospitals are not well equipped and Nurses are undervalued here in Nigeria even in the health sector.”
While emigration from Nigeria as a function of visa approvals to places like the UK has not seen a spike in recent years, that of health workers has been an exception and continues to rise.
In February, BusinessDay had reported a four-year high increase in Nigeria-trained nurses joining the UK workforce, but as data continues to show, the exodus is likely to continue and even quicken.
The data used for the story in January 2021 was for updated March 2020 records. However, by March 2021, when the UK NMC had data for exactly a year after, 685 Nigerian nurses had joined. In the six months from October 2020 to March 2021, the UK’s healthcare added 567 Nigeria-trained nurses to its workforce, and this number has more than doubled over the following six months to the current 1,334. The NMC register is updated twice a year; March and September, capturing entrants in the six months before each period.
The now quickened pace of departure by nurses shows a steady but overlooked trend over the years. Medical doctors are not the only ones leaving Nigeria, and while their departure has received more coverage, other health workers are leaving too.
As of June 20, 2018, there were 5,351 Nigeria-trained doctors in the UK and by December 03, 2021, the number had risen by 69.6 percent to 9073, which also marks a 12.18 percent increase within the year from 8,088 in January. With the entry requirements for nurses said to be lower and more nurses available in Nigeria (although still not sufficient), it would only be a matter of time before the population of migrant nurses overtake that of doctors.
Ayomiposi, a 24-year-old Nigeria-trained nurse had taken the IELTS exam twice when she was interviewed in January, but yet to get the required scores to proceed with her planned migration.
A few weeks ago, she finally left Nigeria for the UK after passing the IELTS at her third attempt, refusing to be overcome by the initial setbacks. At her old job with a Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) in Lagos, she wouldn’t state her actual pay but gave the range as being between N876,000 (£1,550)- N2.16 million (£3,823) per annum, whereas she already had a peek into what her future pay at between £26,000 and £30,000 could be in the UK.
Have her expectations been met, she was asked in a WhatsApp chat, to which she responded, “Sure it was met.” Ayomiposi is one of the 1,334 nurses who left Nigeria between March and September, even as others prepare to follow in their steps in search of better lives.