Over 1600 Nigerian doctors relocate to UK in 12 months as brain drain in health sector worsens

No fewer than 1,616 Nigerian-trained medical doctors have moved to the UK in the last 12 months as the brain drain in Nigeria’s health sector worsened.

The figure is according to the statistics from the register of the official record of the United Kingdom medical practitioners, General Medical Council (GMC).

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The GMC made this known in the “state of medical education and practice in the UK Workforce report 2023” published November 2023 on its website.

According to the report, Nigeria has become the third largest non-UK graduate contributor of doctors to the UK workforce, coming behind India and Pakistan with 2,402 and 2,372 doctors joining the UK workforce respectively.

The report revealed that doctors who qualified outside the UK made up just under two thirds – 63% of the 23,838 new additions to the register in 2022, and that International Medical Graduates (IMGs) made up over half – 52% of new joiners in the UK workforce, while doctors who graduated from within the European Economic Area (EEA) were a smaller component at 10%.

It stated that “Among doctors who joined the UK workforce from abroad in 2022, the greatest number gained their PMQ in India, with Pakistan close behind.

“Doctors with a PMQ from India or Pakistan were the most numerous with 2,402 and 2,372 doctors joining respectively, meaning the two countries accounted for 16% each of the non-UK graduate joiners in 2022.

“Only 181 doctors joined the UK workforce with a Nigerian PMQ in 2014, making them the 11th largest group of non-UK PMQ joiners that year. By 2022, this group was almost nine times the size, at 1,616 doctors, and had become the third largest non-UK graduate contributor of doctors to the UK workforce.”

The report added that “Doctors joining UK practice who gained their PMQ in the country of their nationality have been by far the largest contributors to the workforce since 2012. Non-British nationality doctors who have the same nationality as their PMQ country (for example, Indian doctors who studied medicine in India) have grown the fastest since 2015—they accounted for 30% of the doctors joining the UK workforce in 2015, but that has grown to almost half (48%) in 2022.

“Additionally, doctors who joined the UK workforce, and who have a different nationality to the country they gained their PMQ in, are slowly growing in number. In total, this group was made up of 18% of joiners in 2015 and grew by three percentage points to 21% of joiners in 2022.

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“UK PMQ non-British joiners (for example, a Nigerian person who moves to the UK from Nigeria to study medicine in the UK, and then joins the UK workforce) have increased gradually since 2015 (1,064) to 1,592 in 2022. They now make up one out of six (18%) doctors joining with a UK PMQ.

“While the number of UK PMQ British nationals joining each year has remained largely consistent, every other group has been growing.

“This has resulted in a marked decline in British doctors who hold a UK PMQ joining the register.

“In 2015, UK PMQ British nationals made up over half (53%) of doctors joining the workforce, but, in 2022, they accounted for only three in ten (30%).”

Meanwhile, the shortage of medical doctors and other healthcare professionals continued to bite hard across Nigerian major teaching and general hospitals, according to the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) who cited poor working conditions and the failure of the government to carry out recruitment.

The NARD had confirmed that a ward at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), Ile Ife, Osun State, which is the Behavioral Science/Psychiatry section was also shut down due to shortage of personnel.

It was also that the House of Representatives Committee on Health raised concerns over relocation of Nigerian doctors and nurses abroad which had caused a decline in the country’s health manpower.

The committee had disclosed that due to such rush abroad, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for instance has five wards comprising 150 beds which have been shut down over shortage of personnel.

The Chairman of the committee, Dr Amos Magaji, had described the situation as worrisome saying the legislative arm is working toward nipping the increasing rate of Nigerians going abroad for medical tourism in the bud.

He had said the Nigeria health workers migration overseas has taken a huge toll on the country’s heath system affirming that “the “japa” syndrome would be curtailed by building state-of-the-art infrastructure and making the sector attractive and rewarding to workers irrespective of their fields.”

Speaking with PUNCH, the NMA Chairman in Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Sulaiman said over 789 nurses and 162 doctors had relocated outside Nigeria from Kano State alone.

Similarly, over 162 medical doctors relocated to other countries across the world within the same period under review.

He said, “Many medical doctors and other categories of healthcare workers are exiting the state in droves. So, I cannot tell you the exact number of doctors and nurses that have left the country. I can only give you an estimate.

“It is a bad situation and this is across almost all healthcare workers, not only doctors. They are leaving for Gambia, Somalia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and many others every week.”

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