Nigeria Abroad, a publication that, sources and publishes information about the citizens in diaspora has released data showing that Nigeria has the third highest number of foreign doctors working in the United Kingdom after India and Pakistan.
The data came in following a recent report on the increase in number of Nigerian doctors licensed for work in the UK.
The statistics showed that up to two thousand Nigerian trained medical doctors leave the shores of the country annually to seek employment and better working conditions abroad.
Currently, they are over 100,000 doctors who have registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) to work in the UK.
Most of which are nurses, especially, specialists such as critical care nurses, nephrology nurses, oncology nurses, etc according to records.
Data show that Nigeria-trained doctors in the UK currently stands at 9,976. Notably The figure does not include other medical doctors of Nigerian origin who did not undergo training in Nigeria.
The General Medical Council responsible for licensing and maintaining the official register of medical practitioners in the United Kingdom has reported that an average of three Nigerian doctors per day were licensed within June and July of 2022 to work in the United Kingdom, this is equivalent to 266 Nigerian doctors in the space of two months.
More reports show that as of November 2021, a total of 8,983 Nigerian trained doctors were working in the UK. Then between December 2021 and May 2022 up to 727 medical doctors trained in Nigeria relocated to the United Kingdom.
In the height of it, however, a report was once released about a UK hospital where Five Nigerian doctors were working in the same department and a total of about 100 Nigerian trained doctors working in the entire hospital in Nottingham, UK.
This development translates to loss of workforce in the health care sector in Nigeria worsening the already challenged system.
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) once reported that only four doctors could attend to 10,000 people living in Nigeria, and the trend has been so in the past two decades.
It noted that in 2003, three doctors were available to attend to 10,000 people in the country. But the number peaked at four (4.49 in 2016 and 3.81 in 2018), after 19 years, according to World Health Organization (WHO)) records.
In the report also, WHO data on global doctors’ population among countries revealed that some African nations have more doctors to attend to their population than Nigeria.
Internally, looking at the over 200 million Nigerian population and relatively considering the 1:6 minimum standard percentage ratio of doctors to patients recommended by the WHO, Nigeria still falls short of such recommendation.
Furthermore, in 2017, NOI in collaboration with Nigerian Health Watch conducted a poll amongst Nigerian doctors. In that poll, 88% of Nigerian doctors randomly interviewed stated that they were seeking job opportunities outside Nigeria.
Another poll conducted by NOI in 2018 showed that 88 per cent of Nigerian doctors are considering work opportunities abroad. As number keeps growing, other experts operating in- conutry have lamented the development was due to the unfavourable working condition within the country which include insecurity, poor remuneration and welfare,p etc.
As observed, the Nigerian Medical Association has on its own part through series of industrial actions such as strike, continued to push for a better working condition and to stop continuous mass exodus of medical personnel, leading to brain drain in the country.
Currently, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have issued a two-week ultimatum to the government over poor welfare and failure to implement the new hazard allowance rate that was ratified in December 2021.
Why Medical Personnel are leaving
Questions about why they are leaving is one that is set to receive many answers. However, some of the answers given by experts in the field borders on:
The need to feel secured; most of the experts in the field explained that they needed to be sure they are safe and also that the environment where they practice the profession is sane and conducive. “where there is no threat to my life or that of my family.” One of the doctors said.
Another doctor said that moving abroad offers opportunity for knowledge and skills upgrade and occasions to move up the ladder of the profession.
A doctor explained that, majority of the young doctors abroad would not have left if they got a space to undertake their residency training programme which is a pathway to specialization in Nigeria.
“Due to dwindling budgetary provisions to training centres, the hospitals are admitting fewer resident doctors than their allotted capacity hence qualified doctors cannot get space for their post graduate training. This is a push factor for our young brilliant doctors to leave our shores.”
Another reason highlighted was salary and its current value. This was found to be the most compelling point why health care professionals migrate to the west and other parts of the world. “It is not just the pay but the worth of the pay.
“Over the past seven years, the value of the Nigerian Naira has depreciated so terribly that it has lost almost two third of its value from ₦198 per dollar in 2015 to ₦600 plus per dollar in 2022. This has far reaching implications to determine which professional we can retain in Nigeria and who will leave.’’ Another doctor said.
Lack of priority for the sector was another point a health practitioner mentioned as the reason for their continued exodus to foreign countries.
A report showed that in 2021 at the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare received only 4.5% of the Nigerian national budget.
A poll was once conducted which showed that medical practitioners in the country also picked interest in relocating to places like the United States, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Australia for better working condition.