• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Healthcare Inequalities Worsened by Migration

ByMahdeen Shafee

Oct 18, 2022
An image of the World Health Organisation building

Doctors and healthcare professionals are essential in ensuring that communities have sufficient access to medical treatment and care. Mohammed Abdullahi’s doctoral research into factors affecting migration and return migration of Nigerian medical doctors working in the UK shines a light on the significance of immigrant doctors and healthcare workers in the UK, as well as the adverse effects it can have on Nigeria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the desirable doctor-to-population ratio is 1:1,000. Therefore, with a population of 200 million, Nigeria would need at least 200,000 doctors. However, there are only 75,000 doctors registered with the medical council of Nigeria, with 33,000 of them practicing abroad, a fifth of whom work in the UK. This leaves a figure of 42,000 registered doctors practicing in Nigeria, 80% below that recommended by the WHO. In contrast, the UK has a population of about 67 million, requiring a minimum of 67,000 doctors. The actual number of doctors is far higher than this – in 2021, Statista reported that the UK had approximately 350,000 registered doctors.

Even with an apparent surplus of doctors, the NHS, which employs the majority of these doctors, has needed more support and funding for years now. This really puts into perspective how important Abdullahi’s research into the even more under-resourced Nigerian healthcare system is. Abdullahi investigates the clear disparity between the UK and Nigeria’s respective healthcare systems and how the latter has been affected by international recruitment and migration, which could provide a model for other countries where similar instances have occurred.

A further topic of Abdullahi’s research is return migration, and why migrant doctors might return to their home countries. A potential reason is a responsibility that individual doctors feel to help to improve the healthcare systems of their home countries. However, it seems only fair that some of the responsibility to fix the significant imbalance in resources should fall on the UK. Shouldn’t more be expected of the UK to contribute to countries they have benefitted from, and continue to benefit from? It seems unjust for it to fall on the individuals to fix clear and glaring disparities between the two healthcare systems which stem from deep-rooted colonialism.

Abdullahi’s research into the nuances of emigration, settlement, and return immigration is thought-provoking and can help better our understanding of the experiences of immigrant doctors from Nigeria. I am curious to see how models produced from this research can help countries, especially those that have been colonised, to improve their healthcare services. Despite this, one thing is clear: the longstanding effects of colonialism (which left countries like Nigeria in economic, political, and social turmoil) should be, at least in part, rectified by the UK.