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700 ‘fake’ Nigerian nurses working for UK’s National Health Service? No, 48 registered nurses suspected in Ibadan testing centre fraud

IN SHORT: Social media posts circulating in Nigeria claim that 700 Nigerian nurses have been found to have “fake qualifications” by the UK’s National Health Service. But this is quite a serious mangling of the facts around suspected testing centre fraud in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria.

“In the UK, the NHS found 700 Nigerian nurses had fake qualifications as people stood in for their exam,” reads a claim circulating on social media since late September 2023.

It adds: “Nigeria is considered a 'red list' country for the recruitment of health professionals, meaning poaching of staff could endanger its own health and care system.”

The UK’s state-funded National Health Service, or NHS, provides comprehensive healthcare to the public for free.

The claim also appears here, here, here and here.

But did the NHS really find that 700 of its nurses from Nigeria had fake qualifications? And what does the “red list” have to do with it?



Two tests for qualified international nurses

Africa Check could find no news reports or any other evidence that the NHS had found that 700 of its working nurses – Nigerian or not – were unqualified because others stood in for their exams.

Instead, our research uncovered several online reports that the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) had discovered fraud at a Nigeria-based testing centre for international nurses.

The NMC is a nongovernmental organisation, independent of the state-run NHS. It regulates nursing and midwifery, maintains professional standards and keeps a register of more than 788,000 nurses and midwives allowed to work in the UK.

Nurses from other countries who want to register with the NMC have to pass two tests. The first is a computer-based test (CBT) usually done in the nurse’s home country. The second is a practical test in the UK.

But these are tests for nurses who are already qualified.

‘Anomalous data’ from Ibadan computer-based testing centre

In a 20 September statement, the NMC said “anomalous data” had been found in CBT results from the Yunnik Technologies Test Centre in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state in southwestern Nigeria.

The statement reads:

There is evidence of widespread fraudulent activity at the Yunnik centre, where we suspect some people fraudulently obtained their CBT, probably by use of a proxy tester, where someone takes the test on behalf of someone else.

Overall, this means we cannot have confidence in any CBT result from this test centre and we’re treating all CBTs obtained at Yunnik as invalid.

But the NMC adds that only 48 of the 515 nurses and midwives on its register tested at Yunnik “likely than not ... obtained their results fraudulently”. 

The 48 cases are to be referred to the council’s investigating committee for a final decision.

A possible 48 fraudulent test results that allowed people to register with the UK’s nursing council does not translate to 700 unqualified nurses working for the NHS.

The NMC’s statement says all nurses and midwives tested at Yunnik  – on its register, or still at the application stage – will have to be retested “to obtain a new CBT result”.

“To be clear, no final decision has been made and this does not relate to people’s original nursing/midwifery qualification,” an NMC spokesperson told Reuters.

The claim is false. And its reference to the “red list” may be more evidence of that.

Endangering the healthcare system of Nigeria, not the UK

The second part of the claim reads: “Nigeria is considered a 'red list' country for the recruitment of health professionals, meaning poaching of staff could endanger its own health and care system.”

But that means the UK recruiting health professionals from Nigeria could endanger the healthcare system of Nigeria, not the UK.

The drain of healthcare brains from poorer to wealthier countries has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish its health workforce support and safeguards list.

This lists countries where health professionals are most needed. It encourages other countries to not recruit from those countries. Nigeria is among 37 African countries on the safeguards list.

The UK government has adopted the WHO list in a code of practice. “Countries on the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List are graded red, which means no active recruitment is permitted from these countries,” the code reads.

This is the “red list” to which the claim refers.

Nurses from Nigeria may work in the UK, but may not be headhunted because that could worsen healthcare in Nigeria.

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