The number of Nigerian-trained nurses working in the United Kingdom has surged to the highest numbers in eight years, a new data shows.
According to the latest mid-year register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates from Nigeria rose by 46.6 percent (10,639) in the 12 months to March 2023 from 7,256 in the same period of 2022.
“Seventy-seven percent of internationally educated professionals (educated outside the UK and European Union/European Economic Area) are from India, the Philippines and Nigeria,” the register revealed.
It added that at a time of rising demand for health and care services, the register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates has risen to a record 788,638.
“This means there are 30,351 (four percent) more professionals eligible to practise in the UK than there were last year. And there are 98,365 (14.3 percent) more than five years ago,” it added.
Experts say the rise in the number of nurses migrating to the UK can be attributed to the cheap and easy entry migration requirements of the country, which is facing severe shortage of healthcare workers especially in its National Healthcare system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The staff shortages have been key for the UK’s successive governments, making the country a net importer of healthcare professionals. In 2020, the 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.
In that year, the country announced a Health and Care Visa policy, which aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to migrate to the UK.
On Thursday, the British government revealed that Nigeria was among the top three countries with the second largest increase in skilled work visas under the health and care category. It rose by 251 percent to 17,596 in the year ending March 2023 from 5,009 in the year ending March 2022.
“The UK government is looking for nurses to take care of the influx of patients that they have,” Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigerian registered recruitment and training consultancy said.
“Nigerians are being trained in Nigeria and by the time they do their conversion to be registered nurses in the UK, they will be paid more and their quality of life will be better,” she said.
According to Oyelade, Nigeria will have fewer nurses available to take care of its citizens in the health sector. “The country is losing its talented nurses to an economy that is willing to pay more and give them a better living quality.”
Shortage of nurses leads 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 unavailability of nurses to cater for the population has put a strain on the quality of care that is administered at the different healthcare facilities in the country, consultants at Vesta Healthcare said in a recent presentation.
“There are about an estimated 125,000 nurses in Nigeria. This is almost six times lower than the recommended number of 800,000 by the firm,” they said.
But the number of healthcare workers might decline as the UK recently stopped the recruitment of skilled health and social care workers from Nigeria and 53 other countries across the world.
In its updated ‘Code of Practice For The International Recruitment of Health and Social Care Personnel In England’, the British government placed 37 other African countries on its red list which was based on the World Health Organisation Workforce Support and Safeguard List, 2023. The policy was released in March.
It, however, said the list does not prevent individual health and social care personnel from independently applying for work in the country.