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Ghana claims it will get £1,000 for every nurse sent to UK

Nurses for cash plan condemned as modern ‘slave trade’ with UK defying red list workforce ban set by WHO to protect poorer countries
A nurse talks to an administrator at a health clinic in western Ghana

Nurses for cash plan condemned as modern ‘slave trade’ with UK defying red list workforce ban set by WHO to protect poorer countries

The government has been accused of modern ‘slave trade’ after a politician in Ghana, a red list country, revealed plans to get £1,000 for every nurse they can send to the UK.

Ghana health minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu announced plans on Monday to develop a ‘memorandum of understanding’ to send nurses from Ghana to the UK to work.

He told a parliamentary budget debate in the capital, Accra, that in return the Ghanian government would receive up to £1,000 for each nurse.

The alleged arrangement would

Nurses for cash plan condemned as modern ‘slave trade’ with UK defying red list workforce ban set by WHO to protect poorer countries

A nurse talks to an administrator at a health clinic in western Ghana
A nurse talks to an administrator at a health clinic in western Ghana Picture: Alamy

The government has been accused of modern ‘slave trade’ after a politician in Ghana, a red list country, revealed plans to get £1,000 for every nurse they can send to the UK.

Ghana health minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu announced plans on Monday to develop a ‘memorandum of understanding’ to send nurses from Ghana to the UK to work.

He told a parliamentary budget debate in the capital, Accra, that in return the Ghanian government would receive up to £1,000 for each nurse.

The alleged arrangement would be despite the west African country being included on the World Health Organization (WHO) workforce safety red list, meaning that countries should not actively recruit from there.

Red list countries have an extremely low number of healthcare professionals per capita

These countries are protected as they have an extremely low number of healthcare professionals per capita and their populations have poor access to healthcare.

After the plans were reported in Ghana, with one website calling it a ‘nurses for cash’ agreement, hundreds of people reacted angrily, with some accusing both governments of engaging in a ‘slave trade’ in which nurses were being sold to the UK.

One person wrote: ‘Don't we have deficiency in healthcare personnel in the whole of the country of Ghana? Why are we exporting our brightest and youngest? I cry for our future, very bleak and stupid leaders.’

Another said: ‘Slave trade. It must be stopped. If the British government wants Ghana nurses, she could advertise or hold a job fair to recruit qualified nurses.’

The revelations come as the latest figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showed 879 nurses joined the UK register from Ghana in the past year, among a total of 4,117 who had qualified in red list countries.

In August the UK government published a memorandum of understanding with Nepal, another red list country, for ‘bilateral labour arrangements in healthcare.’

International Council of Nurses chief executive Howard Catton said the UK government’s pattern of targeting red list countries for deals on nurses was a deliberate policy.

UK has not educated enough nurses to meet its own needs

He told the Nursing Standard: ‘It’s important to remember that these red list countries are fragile, they are vulnerable. Their populations do not have access to healthcare, and to lose even one experienced nurse would have huge implications for a community.

‘Let’s call this memorandum what it is – it’s a trade deal. And one that is offering a woefully low valuation of nurses at that. The UK has not educated enough nurses to meet its own needs after years of the alarm sounding. As a nurse, this deliberate policy makes me uneasy – it’s exploitative.

‘I would be asking how this deal is going to be monitored, what else is going to be given in return, and how this is going to by offset by both countries’ governments.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘WHO acknowledges the right for countries to allow managed migration from red list countries if there is an agreement in place between governments. We are committed to ensuring ethical recruitment practices through adherence to the UK’s Code of Practice, which is in line with WHO guidance.’


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