CLAIM: On the 22nd of September 2021, Fact-Checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) came across online news published by the Punch newspapers claiming that 353 Nigerian doctors have been employed by the United Kingdom (UK) in a hundred days.

FACT-CHECK PROCESS: The team of Fact-Checkers at the Centre carried out investigations to determine the veracity of the claim and found in the process that the same news was reported by other media organizations and blog sites such as News Central TV, Sundiata Post, Voice of Nigeria (VON), EON Intelligence, InfoGuide Nigeria amongst others.

In a similar report produced by the Punch on the 9th of June 2021, the reporter claimed to have monitored the General Medical Council (GMC) website for an initial period of 10 months, during which he observed that the number of Nigerian-trained doctors in the UK rose from 7,870 to 8,384, a difference of 514. Between that report and the next published on the 22nd of September, (precisely between June 10 and September 20) which is after a hundred days, Punch reported that the number had risen from 8,384 to 8,737, a difference of 353.

GMC licenses and maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK. The medical register is an online list of doctors in the UK. It shows the type of registration a doctor holds, their training, and other useful information. The register is there to give confidence that doctors practising medicine in the UK have the training, skills and experience needed to meet the standards that patients expect.

We started our fact check process with an attempt to independently reproduce the data reported by The Punch directly on the GMC website. We realized that while the website can show you the current number of doctors of Nigerian origin registered in the UK, there was no feature to filter the data displayed for specific date ranges.

This prompted us to put a call across to the reporter to explain his methodology and how he arrived at the figures. He explained that he simply checked the site on the 10th of June and recorded the figures. He came back after a hundred days to check the numbers again and noted the figures. He then calculated the difference between the figures recorded on the 10th of June and those of 20th September, 2021; which is a hundred days, to arrive at 353.

Fact-checkers also monitored the GMC website which updates data daily and found that the number had risen by 16 to make a total of 8,753 as of Friday, 24th September. It increased by 8 when checked again on Monday the 27th of September, to make a total of 8,761 and again by 3 the next day to make a total of 8,764 Nigerian medical doctors registered in the UK.

Doctors who practice medicine in the UK need to hold a license to practice along with the suitable type of registration for the work that they do. It is the license to practice which allows them to carry out certain activities such as prescribing medicines and treating patients. A doctor’s status on the medical register will show if they hold a license or not. The license gives doctors legal rights and privileges in the UK only.

Recall that Resident doctors under the umbrella of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) across public health facilities in Nigeria have been on strike for 56 days. The doctors cited several reasons, including delays in the payment of their salaries and allowances.

The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried that it could have serious consequences for the battle against the third wave of the pandemic.

NARD is demanding amongst other issues the payment of COVID-19 treatment allowances in the absence of death-in-service insurance, having lost over a dozen of its members to the pandemic, while also protesting the shortage of manpower in public hospitals.

At the root of the strike action is the government’s constant failure to honour the agreements reached with NARD over its demands. A meeting last month between the leaders of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD and government representatives also failed to resolve the issues after the striking doctors backed out at the last minute.

Meanwhile, the Vice-President of NARD, Julian Ojebo, has said the rate of migration might double in the coming weeks since doctors were not given the right remuneration.

Ojebo argued that the doctors migrating to Saudi Arabia might even be more than those moving to the UK. He said it was unfortunate that the government had failed to address the plight of doctors and meet their conditions for calling off the strike which began on August 1, 2021.

Ojebo stated, “If 353 Nigerian doctors have been licensed in the last 100 days, I am sure the figure will double within the next one month. The strike has opened the eyes of the doctors that Nigeria does not care about them.”

On its part, the NMA has said that the main reason why many doctors flee from the country for greener pastures elsewhere is as a result of poor remuneration and welfare.

The National Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Aniekeme Uwah, said this during the 2021 Correspondents’ Chapel Week, adding that the increasing human capital flight of doctors from the country will potentially affect the health sector.

Speaking in Uyo on the theme “Post-COVID-19 Economy and the Challenges to Ethical Journalism Ahead of 2023 Elections”, Mr Uwah said, “So many of our colleagues in Nigeria have moved for greener pasture abroad, and if this is not tackled, the health sector will be highly affected”.

He added that the only way to ensure that medical practitioners stay and practice in their country is to make them see their nation as a place of greener pasture which the government at all levels can actualize by addressing the issue of poor welfare and remuneration.

CONCLUSION: Based on the figures obtained from the GMC website, CDD can confirm that 353 Nigerian doctors were registered and licensed by the UK in 100 days, and even more are being registered as the days go by.

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