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Like doctors, Nigerian nurses are also migrating, many to UK

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Between 2019 and mid-2022, at least 4,460 nurses migrated from Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK), data from the development Research and Project Centre (dRPC) has shown.

The data was released by dRPC, a public policy think-tank, at a symposium on Wednesday in Abuja. The programme was put together to discuss the brain drain in Nigeria’s health sector and its implications for sustainable child and family health service delivery and financing in the context of new national priorities.

Quoting data from the register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the UK, dRPC said the number of Nigeria-trained nurses increased by 68.4 per cent from 2,790 in March 2017 to 7,256 in March 2022.

The data shows that 225 nurses and midwives migrated to the UK in 2019; 663 in 2022; and 626 in 2021. Within the ten months of this year, 2,946 nurses and midwives have relocated to the UK to seek greener pastures.

The UK is easily the most preferred destination for Nigerian migrating health workers.

In March, the UK nursing and midwifery council 2022 report said the total number of Nigerian-trained nurses has increased to 7,256 from 2,796 in march 2018.

Like the case for nurses, the UK is also a preferred destination for Nigerian doctors leaving the country in droves.

This is coming at a time Nigeria is suffering from grossly insufficient medical personnel with PREMIUM TIMES reporting that over 5,000 doctors moving to the UK in eight years.

As of March 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health put the number of registered nurses in Nigeria at 180,709, which implies a ratio of 88 nurses per 100,000 population.

On the Nigerian midwife register, there are only 126,863 midwives. With 23 per cent or 46,216,830 of Nigeria’s female reproductive age population, there is only 1 midwife to every 364 women of reproductive age.

In its statistics, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) has lamented that there were only about 125,000 registered nurses servicing the health needs of the country’s over 200 million population. This means that the country would need at least 800,000 nurses and midwives to meet its healthcare needs.

The experts said this promises a bleak future for Nigeria’s health sector.

All this points to a destructive challenge as the country races to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC), said Micheal Nnachi, the national president of NANNM.

Mr Nnachi, who spoke at dRPC’s programme, said Nigeria can not achieve UHC without nurses. Hence, he appeals to the federal government to prioritise the welfare of nurses and midwives.

This point was also raised by the Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Ayo Omotayo, who said the issue of brain drain is causing existential problems in Nigeria.

Mr Omotayo said these troubling figures are among the reasons NIPSS is working assiduously to find solutions to the country’s problems. He added that the institute has centred its activities on the health sector in the past three years.

On her part, the director of family health at, the Federal Ministry of Health, Salma Ibrahim said the government is not relenting in its efforts to improve the health system.

She said medical practitioners seeking greener pastures in other countries will come back to Nigeria. This was the situation about 30 years ago, Ms Ibrahim said, “but the government must do something drastic to bring them back.”

Other speakers at the event cited improved incentives and welfare as the main reason developed countries are attracting Nigerian doctors.

This exodus of nurses will not stop until the government addresses the issue of poor salary and the decay in the Nigerian health sector, participants at the event concluded.

Amidst the nationwide debate of the mass exodus of health practitioners, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCM) said it had discussions with the UK medical council about the brain drain.

The council, which regulates medical practice in Nigeria, said it had various discussions with the UK medical council including “the repatriation of some funds in line with global health initiatives from Nigerian doctors, who were trained with taxpayers’ funds.”

“We had a lot of useful discussions, amongst which is the possibility of the UK government to repatriate some funds in line with global health initiatives from Nigerian doctors who were trained with taxpayers’ funds.
“Discussion around stemming the tide of brain drain also took place,” the MDCN said.

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