The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has deplored poaching of professionals by rich nations such as the United Kingdom (UK) from poor countries, saying the development was becoming “out of control.”
The submission comes as Nigeria lost 2,998 trained nurses in 2021-2022 to British National Health Service (NHS).
ICN’s Chief Executive, Howard Catton, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “My sense is that the situation currently is out of control.
“We have intense recruitment taking place mainly driven by six or seven high-income countries but with recruitment from countries which are some of the weakest and most vulnerable which can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”
According to a report first published by Daily Mail UK, the ICN said six or seven high-income countries are driving “intense recruitment” from places that “can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”
India and the Philippines account for the lion’s share of recruits for the period under review. But a fifth came from ‘red listed’ countries, where the NHS is banned from actively poaching nurses. They were Nigeria, Ghana, Nepal and Pakistan.
The data, from the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council, cover the period before Britain struck a special deal with Nepal to allow the NHS to recruit nurses from the country.
Ghana is one of the worst hit, with hospitals warning that their workforce had been slashed as staff rushed to fill NHS posts they found on social media.
Statistics from NHS England, which have 112,000 vacancies, suggest that approximately two-thirds of the increase in staff hired since 2019 were trained abroad.
Latest NHS, England data show that the service is recruiting more nurses abroad than ever before, with 44,000 joining the organisation since 2019, compared to the 22,000UK-trained attendants.
Most recruits were from India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
IN a related development, The British government has committed £2 million to strengthen Nigeria’s health workforce.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Richard Montgomery, who disclosed this in a statement yesterday, noted that the Nigerian health system, like many countries in the global south, has been beset with challenges in having a resilient infrastructure that is able to provide quality health services, promote health and prevent diseases.
He submitted that a well-skilled, motivated and adequate health workforce is critical to ending preventable deaths and building resilience against global threats.
The envoy said the UK International Development funding aligns with the Nigerian health workforce strategic plan geared at assisting the country to upskill its workers and improve health outcomes in the long run.
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) two-year HRH project aims to support government at national and sub-national levels, as well as regulatory bodies, professional associations and other key stakeholders to develop transformative strategies for scaling up the quantity and quality of health workers, including competency-based curricula development and reviews.
Montgomery said the UK provided the multi-million Pound to support healthcare staff recruitment and retention in three African countries, namely Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana to enhance resilience against global health challenges
Consequently, WHO has commended UK’s Department of Health and Social Care for a fresh funding commitment to help Nigeria develop its health staff in the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
The global health body noted that the £2 million grant would assist Nigeria in optimising performance, quality and impact of its health workforce through evidence-informed policies and strategies over a two-year period.
It would help to align investment in HRH with the current and future needs of the population and health systems; strengthen the capacity of institutions, including regulatory bodies, for effective public policy stewardship, leadership and governance, optimise health workers’ retention, equitable distribution and performance, and strengthen the management of health workforce data for monitoring and accountability. The project would also implement interventions in Nigeria.
The project is to draw on the technical capacity of WHO to strengthen health systems, including experience of implementing similar projects with appreciable results in the past. Implementation at sub-national levels with a focus on six states of Cross River, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos will build on the presence and technical support being provided to state governments through the 37 WHO sub-national offices in Nigeria.
WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said that the strength of every health system reflects the capacity and adequacy of its health workforce necessary to deliver quality services to address population health needs.
For a resilient and effective health system, he said Nigeria must have adequate numbers of health workers, who are fit for purpose, motivated to perform, and equitably distributed across sub-national levels to enhance equity in access to their services by the population in need.
By Chukwuma Muanya and Nkechi Onyedika Ugoeze, Reuters
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