Ghana’s already fragile health system is at great risk due to high numbers of medical staff leaving to work in the United Kingdom. The trend according to experts has been worsened by the covid situation which has led to large numbers of medical staff from developing countries leaving to help in the pandemic efforts abroad.

Over the last two decades, the share of foreign-trained or foreign-born doctors and nurses has been increasing in richer countries. According to Health workers, the onset of the covid pandemic with its associated deaths and migration are leaving behind knowledge gaps in already weak health systems, where conditions of service and poor salaries are driving staff to leave. A recent study by the KNUST suggests almost 60% of nurses in active practice have immigration intentions.

A report by the UK House of Commons indicates some 3,395 Ghanaian healthcare workers in the NHS, compared to 3,236 Ghanaians working in the country as of 2021 according to Statista. The figure shows there are more Ghanaians working in the UK health system than in Ghana.

To address the shortage and inequitable distribution of healthcare workers in the country it is estimated that a total of 38,000 nurses will be required to bridge the gap and meet the standards of the World Health Organization according to the Ghana Registered Nurses Association.

Kafui a Ghanaian nurse, currently living and working in the United Kingdom in an interview with  said most of her colleagues are tired of conditions back home. “We are exhausted and many like me want to leave”. Said Kafui. According to her although most of them love their job, sometimes there are no facilities to help them make the needed impact.

In terms of salary Kafui says she earns far more in the UK than in Ghana. “In Ghana, I earned a monthly salary of not more than 3000 cedis, but in the UK I earn a monthly salary of nearly 3000 pounds”. She said.

Global statistics reveal, that women account for about 90% of nurses and midwives, close to 50% of all doctors, and make up 70% of all health and care workers. According to research, migration and lost medical knowledge contributes to excess deaths.

In response to the alarming rate of migration by health workers to the UK, Ghana’s Health Ministry increased the cost of clearance forms for nurses wanting to travel abroad by 500% as if that was enough to curtail the trend. Many including Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, a pharmacist practicing in the U.K. and research fellow at CDD expressed disappointment over the actions of the Ministry. “Rather than deal with the underlying problems they are papering over the cracks”. He fumed.

According to him some trusts in the U.K. are offering 4000 pounds relocation allowance. “Ask yourself what this hike will do in this context”? He quizzed.

To contain the situation, Global health specialists have launched initiatives to protect medical staff and incentivize them so they are not enticed abroad. An international network advocating for equality, Women in Global Health has jointly launched what it calls “a new social contract for women in the health and care workforce”. The Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce initiative, a partnership between the WHO, Women in Global Health, and the French government aim to strengthen policy by investing in and protecting workers in developing countries.

The UK in 2020 launched a fast-track Health and Care Visa, an initiative to attract more health workers from developing countries.