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Nigerian Doctors Lament Working In UK Hospital Over Exploitation, ‘Slave Labour’

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Nigerian Doctors Lament Working In UK Hospital Over Exploitation, ‘Slave Labour’

By Nwani Augustine

Doctors recruited from poor countries to work in UK hospitals have lamented that they are being exploited.

They also say they are so overworked they fear that they might put patients’ health at risk.

A BBC investigation has found evidence that doctors from Nigeria are being recruited by a British healthcare company and expected to work in private hospitals under conditions not allowed in the National Health Service.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) has described the situation as “shocking” and says the sector needs to be brought in line with NHS working practices.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 6,068 medical doctors have moved to the UK since Muhammadu Buhari became Nigerian President in 2015.

According to data obtained from the General Medical Council of the UK, the total number of Nigeria-trained doctors who migrated to the UK as of August 30, 2022 stood at 10,096, The PUNCH reports.

Checks showed that the General Medical Council in the UK licensed at least 353 Nigerian-trained doctors between June 10, 2021 and September 20, 2021.

The BBC has spoken to several foreign medics – including a young Nigerian doctor who worked at the private Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital in 2021.

Augustine Enekwechi says his hours were extreme – on-call 24 hours a day for a week at a time – and that he was unable to leave the hospital grounds. He says working there felt like being in “a prison”.

The tiredness was so intense, he says, there were times he worried he couldn’t properly function.

“I knew that working tired puts the patients at risk and puts myself also at risk, as well for litigation,” he says. “I felt powerless… helpless, you know, constant stress and thinking something could go wrong.”

Nuffield Health disputes those working hours, saying its doctors are offered regular breaks, time off between shifts, and the ability to swap shifts if needed. The company adds that “the health and wellbeing of patients and hospital team members” is its priority.

Augustine was hired out to the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital from a private company – NES Healthcare. It specialises in employing doctors from overseas, many from Nigeria, and using them as Resident Medical Officers, or RMOs – live-in doctors found mainly in the private sector.

Augustine says he was so excited to be offered a job that he barely looked at the NES contract. In fact, it opted him out of legislation that protects UK workers from excessive working hours – the Working Time Directive – and left him vulnerable to a range of punishing salary deductions.

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