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NHS look to Africa to plug skills gap

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The National Health Service (NHS) is stripping Africa of its doctors, according to a new report published today by the charity, Save the Children and Medact.

Using Ghana as a case study, the report reveals that between 1999 and 2004, the total number of doctors registered in the UK and trained in Ghana, doubled from 143 to 293. Nurses are also migrating, there were 40 new registrations of Ghanaian nurses in 1998/99; by 2003/04 an estimated cumulative total of 1021 had registered.

It is estimated that over half of the doctors trained in Ghana have migrated. A training cost equating to £35 million. In comparison the UK has saved £65 million in training costs by recruiting Ghanaian doctors since 1998. The trend is set to continue. Estimates by the charity show that by 2008 the UK will need some 25,000 more doctors and 250,000 nurses than it did in 1997.

Save the Children say that stripping Ghana of their doctors and their investment in training should be stopped. Doctors and nurses who migrate to the UK are sending part of their salaries home but this is not plugging the gaps left in the health care system in their home countries.

The charity is calling for the government to compensate poor countries who it says are robbed of their healthcare professionals.

Save the Children Director General Mike Aaronson said: “Many African countries suffer severe poverty and have limited funds available for basic services like education and health. It is vulnerable children who suffer disproportionately when these services are failing. It is shameful that many poor countries are spending millions of pounds training nurses and doctors to prop up the UK’s National Health Service.”

The UK Government has attempted to address the problem by implementing a code of practice for the NHS barring it from actively recruiting staff in developing countries. But say Save the Children the code has not halted the trends of migrating healthcare professionals.

It is thought that Ghanaians provide the NHS with services valued at £39 million a year.

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Annie Hayes

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