NIGERIA is struggling to hold on to her doctors after her former colonial master the UK unveiled a new Health and Care Visa policy aimed at wooing health professionals from developing nations in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Having one of the most stringent immigration policies in the world, the UK is planning to even tighten migration further when it finally leaves the European Union (EU). However, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a huge staffing problem in the country’s health sector, especially when it comes to social care where about 40% of staff are of migrant origin.
In a bid to combat the shortage, the UK has opened the migration window for care professionals, social workers and their families, to bolster its National Health Service (NHS). This new visa policy aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to come go to UK as from August this year.
It is expected that a large number of Nigerian doctors will seize the opportunity and migrate to the UK as recent findings show that UK is one of the leading destinations for migrating Nigerian health workers. Estimates have it that there are over 4,000 Nigerian doctors in UK, spread across 83 sub-specialties.
Already, Nigeria’s health minister Dr Osagie Ehanire, has told doctors that there are better off staying in the country as there is no such thing as hazard allowance in the UK. He added that the Nigerian government was working on ensuring better welfare for the doctors in a bid to keep them in the country.
Dr Ehanire said: ” Those who have been trained by scholarship and are on a job have a moral responsibility to give back. Even now, we have large numbers of Nigerian doctors in the UK, US and in Europe, who apply to come every year to come and serve, even though they were not even trained here or they were not even trained at the state’s expense.
“They have the obligation to come and give back to the community as it’s just a moral obligation called the Diaspora Health Professionals Initiative. Some of them spend their own money and they come here, bringing equipment, materials and commodities and help us.”
According to the UK government, the new Health and Care Visa would come with a reduced visa application fee compared to that paid by other skilled workers and will also include an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. Health and care professionals applying on this route can also expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We are indebted to overseas health and care professionals for their tremendous contributions, not just in saving thousands of lives throughout this crisis but for the vital role they play year-round. The introduction of the Health and Care Visa follows a number of unprecedented measures to show the UK’s gratitude to health workers from overseas.”
It is believed that, for health workers, specific advantages come with searching for greener pastures abroad. In 2018, a total sum of $25bn was remitted to Nigeria from the diaspora, constituting a whopping six per cent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. This sum was more than Nigeria’s combined total earnings from oil and gas for the same year.