The migration of Nigerian-trained nurses to the United Kingdom (UK) has intensified, hitting an all-time high in March this year.
According to data from the register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the UK, the number of Nigeria-trained nurses rose year-on-year by 68.4 percent to 7,256 in March 2022 from 4,310 in the same month of last year.
Apart from the number being the highest, it also ranks third by country of training outside the European Union/European Economic Area.
The data showed that 41,090 were trained in the Philippines, 37,815 in India, 3,655 in Zimbabwe and 2,894 in South Africa.
“People who trained in the Philippines and India continue to represent a significant proportion of our permanent register and contribute strongly to our annual growth,” the NMC said.
It said in 2021-2022, there was a significant increase in the number of people joining the permanent register for the first time who trained in India, the Philippines and Nigeria.
Nurses play an important role in the healthcare system since they are always with patients at every stage of the care process, tending to them, counselling them and improving healthcare processes.
The growing migration of nurses from Nigeria has led to a shortage of the health workers in the country.
A recent presentation by Vesta Healthcare, a clinician-led ﬁrm of International Healthcare Management Consultants, said there are an estimated 125,000 nurses in Nigeria. This is almost six times lower than the recommended number of 800,000 by the firm.
“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,” it said.
It also added that patients are usually left unsatisfied with the care provided to them because the nurses available have to cater for several other patients’ simultaneously.
Experts say 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.
Okechukwu Ekemezie, a medical doctor, said the health sector would be in shambles because many quack nurses would enter the profession. “Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. They are the ones that take care of patients.”
Recently, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) said that over 11, 000 nurses migrated from Nigeria to developed countries between 2019 and 2022.
“The country is witnessing a shortage of nurses because of mass migration,” said Michael Nnachi, president of NANNM. “There was a need to invest in the nursing workforce and consider a special salary package for nurses to address brain drain.”
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, which is facing severe shortage of healthcare workers especially in its National Healthcare system (NHS) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read also: International Nurses Day: Nigeria can’t keep nurses it needs
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.
The country also announced a Health and Care Visa policy, which aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to migrate to the UK.
“The NHS is still trying to recover from the pandemic. And with the increase of health issues, a lot of NHS workers are being burnt out or resigning which is affecting the number of nurses to cover the amount of people to care for,” said Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigeria-registered recruitment and training consultancy.
“So, they are open to nurses that will help them meet the demands of their citizens and not allow people to die on their watch,” she added.