Article Summary

  • The number of nurses, midwives, and nursing associates from Nigeria in the UK increased by 46.6% in the 12 months to March 2023.
  • India, the Philippines, and Nigeria account for 77% of internationally-educated professionals in the UK.
  • The migration of nurses to the UK is driven by easier entry requirements and a severe shortage of healthcare workers, while Nigeria faces a brain drain challenge with negative impacts on various sectors, especially healthcare.

Based on the latest United Kingdom mid-year register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates from Nigeria rose by 46.6% (10,639) in the 12 months to March 2023 from 7,256 in the same period of 2022. 

The register also revealed that 77% of internationally-educated professionals in the UK (educated outside the UK and European Union/European Economic Area) are from India, the Philippines and Nigeria. 

Why nurses are rushing to the UK

The rising number of nurses migrating to the UK can be attributed to the new and easier entry/migration requirements for the country amid a severe shortage of healthcare workers, especially in its National Healthcare system. 

Nigeria has witnessed a significant increase in the number of trained skilled workers migrating to other countries, particularly to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. 

Many of the emigrants are graduates, trained in Nigeria’s highly-subsidised universities. These Nigerian graduates take with them years of training and skills to foreign countries. 

These human capital exports have raised many concerns about the consequent deprivation in many of Nigeria’s struggling sectors, particularly the healthcare and financial services sectors. 

Nigeria’s brain drain challenge

Brain drain is the migration of middle-class and highly skilled professionals from Nigeria to other countries. 

This trend was initially restricted to certain professions but has now become widely spread across professions with the introduction of various visa programs to fill workforce gaps in developed nations. 

The impact of highly skilled migration has been felt in many sectors of the country but has had unarguably the worst effect on the healthcare sector.

The high unemployment rate, worsening insecurity, eroding consumer purchasing power, poor health care and low doctor-to-patient ratio, a failing educational system, political instability, and widespread corruption are all push factors. 

The consequence of Nigeria’s brain drain is evident in the healthcare system. A recent report by Vesta Healthcare states that there are an estimated 125,000 nurses in Nigeria, six times lower than the recommended number of 800,000. 

What you should know

Desai et al (2009) noted that mass movement of Human capital such as this will have myriad effects on a developing country like Nigeria, some of which they consider beneficial. 

High-skill emigration can be a cradle to facilitate trade, investment, and ideas; a rich source of remittances; and a possible supply of high human capital if emigrants return. 

The mass emigration of highly skilled workers could also lead to increased wage levels for those left behind. However, losing a substantial portion of a country’s best minds may also have significant negative effects on the country such as a negative net fiscal effect and low productivity or total absence of skilled workers in many sectors. 

The outflow of talent may also make the country less attractive for foreign direct investments and may significantly drag economic growth. 

To stem the negative effects on the healthcare sector, it is pertinent to ensure that a safe and livable environment is created while wages and conditions of services for healthcare personnel must be improved.