Ghana patients in danger as nurses head to UK

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The recruitment of nurses by high-income countries from poorer nations is “out of control”, according to the head of one of the world’s biggest nursing groups.

 

The comments come as the BBC finds evidence of how Ghana’s health system is struggling due to the “brain-drain”.

Many specialist nurses have left the West African country for better paid jobs overseas.

 

In 2022 more than 1,200 Ghanaian nurses joined the UK’s nursing register.

This comes as the National Health Service (NHS) increasingly relies on staff from non-EU countries to fill vacancies.

 

Howard Catton from the International Council of Nurses (ICN) is concerned about the scale of the numbers leaving countries like Ghana.

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“My sense is that the situation currently is out of control,” he told the BBC.

“We have intense recruitment taking place mainly driven by six or seven high-income countries but with recruitment from countries which are some of the weakest and most vulnerable which can ill-afford to lose their nurses.”

 

The head of nursing at Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Gifty Aryee, told the BBC her Intensive Care Unit alone had lost 20 nurses to the UK and US in the last six months – with grave implications.

“Care is affected as we are not able to take any more patients. There are delays and it costs more in mortality – patients die,” she said.

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She added that seriously ill patients often had to be held for longer in the emergency department due to the nursing shortages.

One nurse in the hospital estimated that half of those she had graduated with had left the country – and she wanted to join them.

 

But she added that it was not possible to stop nurses from leaving as migration was a right and that the Ghanaian government needed to do more to persuade them to stay. The health ministry in the capital, Accra, declined to comment.

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Ghana is on the World Health Organization’s list of 55 vulnerable countries, which have low numbers of nurses per head of population. The list – dubbed by some as the “red list” – is designed to discourage systematic recruitment in these countries.

The UK government recently gave £15m ($18.6m) to Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya to help boost their healthcare workforces.

 

But the country is known to be looking at brokering a formal deal with Ghana whereby it might be able to recruit more proactively in return for giving the government there a sum of money per nurse.

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