African Docs: NHS Importing Migrant Medics Hurts Poor Countries

AMANUEL SILESHI/AFP via Getty Images
AMANUEL SILESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

African doctors have lambasted Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for its habit of plundering poor countries for medical professionals instead of focusing on training local talent, in defiance of establishment dogma that the state healthcare provider’s “diversity” is both necessary and something to be celebrated.

“The UK already has one of the highest proportions and overall numbers of overseas-qualified doctors in its workforce, yet continues to actively encourage and support overseas health workers to relocate,” wrote Johannes Fagan, Professor and Chairman of the Division of Otolaryngology, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, and Dr Mahmood Bhutta, Consultant and Honorary Clinical Professor at the Department of ENT Surgery at Royal Sussex County Hospital, in the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ).

“Current UK immigration rules recognise all medical practitioners (as well as nurses, paramedics, radiographers, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists) as shortage occupations, and for migrants offered such a post in the National Health Service (NHS) grant a reduced visa fee and support with relocation… This position seems insensitive to the well-documented and morally questionable problem of ‘brain drain’,” the medics added, bucking the conventional wisdom that it is a great thing that Britain’s socialised state health service employs so many foreigners.

“A report by the World Health Organization [WHO] in 2006 found that on average a quarter of doctors in sub-Saharan Africa had migrated to work in high-income countries, and yet we know that only 5 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to timely, safe and affordable surgery,” noted Fagan and Bhutta, complaining that Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) is nevertheless insisting that “overall numbers [of foreign medics in the NHS] will need to rise further” as an essential part of their plans for the future.

The focus on recruiting foreign clinicians has not been without its negative consequences for British patients and would-be medical professionals, either, with official figures from as long ago as 2012 showing that three-quarters of doctors struck off the medical register were trained abroad.

Foreign doctors also accounted for 60 per cent of cases of sexual misconduct with patients in the three years to 2019 — despite the NHS introducing controversial targets to reduce the awkward number of minority staff subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

British junior doctors, meanwhile, have faced fierce competition to find work and even unemployment for well over a decade, and the administrations of Tory prime ministers such as David Cameron not only refused to prioritise training for more British nurses but actually supported massive cuts to nursing degrees in the wholly mistaken belief that the country would end up with more of them than it needed.

“In 2015 we had 10 applicants per nursing place, and 37 per place for midwifery. We knew that at least four in 10 of the nursing applicants would have made excellent nurses. In midwifery, places were like gold dust,” lamented Prof David Green, Vice-Chancellor of Worcester University, in December 2019, when 44,000 nursing vacancies were already starting to bite.

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