With Nigeria having the third highest number of medical doctors in the United Kingdom after India and Pakistan, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, has given the indication that her country will support efforts by the Nigerian government in preventing brain drain in the country’s health sector.
Laing said the commitment was necessary following a recent spike in visa applications from Nigerians.
The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, in October stated that the country was battling with its worst situation of brain drain in history, as no fewer than 10,296 Nigeria-trained doctors are currently practising in the United Kingdom.
The association’s national president, Dr Uche Ojinmah, expressed concern with the recent trend of medical doctors leaving the country.
Ojinmah had warned that the country may need to hire doctors from foreign countries in the future if the trend is not checked.
Given the scenario, Dr. Ayotunde Fasunla, the Oyo NMA chairman, had called for a state of emergency on the health sector, adding that the poor state of government-owned medical facilities is something to be concerned about.
“The infrastructure deficit is such that some of our hospitals spend a significant amount of their internally-generated revenue on diesel to ensure power supply,” he said.
“There is scarcity of funds to apply for equipment upgrade, manpower development or even recruitment of new staff. Many of our hospitals are grossly under-staffed. Even the process of replacing migrating staff is bogged down by a rigid and insensitive government bureaucracy.
“It is our plea to the government to commit more funds to the health sector so that the system does not collapse.
“Only healthy people can have the will and strength to contribute to the growth and development of a nation’s economy.
“Therefore, I call on well-meaning Nigerians, philanthropists, and non-governmental organisations to join hands with the government to improve the conditions of the health system in the nation, especially Oyo state. It is obvious that the government cannot handle it alone.”
The envoy speaking on Saturday at the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja, said the UK was mindful of the situation and was in talks with the Nigerian government to avoid causing a brain drain, especially in the health sector.
“We have a labour shortage in the UK at the moment. But we have to balance that because we do not also want to be responsible for a massive brain drain from Nigeria because you also need talented people,” Laing said.
“So, the health sector is an example where there are a lot of Nigerian medics, both nurses and doctors, in the national health service.”
She, however, expressed her delight that the UK had become an attractive destination for Nigerians, especially students, adding that the UK was ready to welcome talent.
“You know, there are obviously people of Nigerian origin in the UK. So, people like to go where they have family or where they have friends.
“Secondly, the English language makes it a lot easier.
“Thirdly is the education, and people who have studied will want to return. And I think you know, we are a welcoming country, and we want to welcome talents, whether it’s people coming to study or people coming to work.
“So, a lot of Nigerians will be tuned to the UK, and we have seen a very big increase in requests for Nigerian student visas. That is partly because we have changed our policy.
“So, it is now easier for Nigerians, students to remain after their studies, they can stay, I think up to two years if you have done a masters or a PhD, which will enable people to look for work after they have studied.”
According to Home Office, Nigerians accounted for the highest increase in the number of dependants accompanying persons with study visas for the year ending in June 2022.