TROUBLES are most likely ahead for Nigerian health professionals seeking to migrate and work in the United Kingdom (UK), as the UK government has placed Nigeria and 53 other countries on the red list of nations from which it will not recruit health workers without the permission of their countries.
The countries in the red list include 41 from Africa, Oceania 6, Asia 5, and America, 2.
In its recently revised ‘Code of Practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel in England,’ the UK said it recognised a projected global shortage of 10 million health workers to achieve universal health coverage in low and lower-middle-income countries by 2030 and would continue to support quality health for its people and the rest of the world.
The UK’s decision followed March 14 alert by the World Health Organization (WHO) urging nations with more human resources for health to avoid hiring from those with few workers.
The updated WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023 identifies 55 countries as vulnerable to the availability of health workers required to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal target for universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.
“The impact of COVID-19 and widespread disruptions to health services has resulted in a rapid acceleration in the international recruitment of health workers. For countries losing health personnel to international migration, this could negatively impact health systems and hinder their progress towards achieving UHC and health security.
“Of the 55 countries, 37 are in the WHO African region, eight in the Western Pacific region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean region, three in the South-East Asia region and one is in the Americas. Eight countries have been newly added to the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023 since its original publication in 2020,” the agency said.
The countries included in the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023 have a UHC service coverage index below 55 and health workforce density below the global median: 49 medical doctors, nursing and midwifery personnel per 10 000 people. These countries require priority support for health workforce development and health system strengthening, along with additional safeguards that limit active international recruitment.
The UK recruits doctors, medical laboratory scientists, dentists, healthcare scientists, nurses, midwives, care workers, allied health professionals and other health workers from Nigeria and other countries.
On April 7, The ICIR reported how doctors in Nigeria vowed to resist the passage of a bill currently at the House of Representatives seeking to stop them from migrating to work abroad. The report contains publications on the hundreds of doctors that have left the country in recent years.
The ICIR reports that all categories of health professionals in Nigeria migrate, and the rate has snowballed since the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020.
It thus remains what becomes the fate of those in line to leave the country for the UK, widely regarded as one of the greener pastures.
Health professionals are most likely to face stiff resistance from the Nigerian government because the government has always frowned at the migration, widening brain drain in the nation’s health sector.
The ICIR reports that the UK’s code of practice for the international recruitment of health workers has four objectives, namely.
- To set out principles and best practice benchmarks to be adhered to by all employers – public and independent contracting bodies, recruiting organisations, agencies and collaborations – when recruiting international health and social care personnel.
- To prevent active recruitment to the UK from countries on the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List 2023.
- To set out the UK government’s approach to supporting international health and social care systems and workforce, and efforts to achieve UHC and the UN sustainable development goals, and
- To provide reassurance to international personnel that employment with the NHS (National Health Service), local authorities, and other health and social care organisations will offer high standards of induction and support while they work in the UK.
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