Malawian nurses stranded in UK – report

An unidentified number of Malawian nurses, who migrated to the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures, are said to be stranded in that country after finding themselves out of work due to changes in the UK immigration policy, Malawi News reported on Saturday.

The plight of the nurses is revealed in an Oxford Journal called ‘Health Policy and Planning‘ published on March 21, 2013 in an article entitled: ‘Through the back door: Nurse migration to the UK from Malawi and Nepal, a policy critique researched by Radha Adhikari and Astrida Grigulis of The School of Health in Social Science, University of Eddinburgh in Scotland.’

The two researchers observe that the National Health Service (NHS) has a long history of recruiting overseas nurses to meet nursing shortages in the UK. But, according to duo, the recruitment partners regularly fluctuate in response to political and economic changes.

“Typically, the UK government gives little consideration of how these unstable recruitment practices affect overseas nurses,” Adhikari and Grigulis write with specific findings on Malawi and Nepal which details challenges overseas nurses encounter linked to recent recruitment and migration restrictions.

Malawian nurses living in the UK confirmed that some of them have ended up destitute surviving on alms due to changes in the UK immigration policy, according the newspaper report

The weekly reported that all nurses that were interviewed opted for anonymity and said most of them have been forced to leave lucrative jobs in big hospitals under the NHS and have opted to work in nursing care homes instead of returning home.

“Those that are better off are nurses who graduated from the University of Malawi’s Kamuzu College of Nursing but our colleagues from lower institutions like St. Luke, Nguludi, Malamulo or Nkhoma are not recognised as nurses here and thus they just work as care assistants if they are lucky,” said one of the nurses.

She said some of them have found themselves without money and unable to return home.

“There were three colleagues who handed themselves over to authorities and they ended up being deported as they had no money for flight back home to Malawi. Others are still in hiding and cannot be assisted by even the diplomatic office here,” she said.

The findings by Adhikari and Grigulis say that changes in nurse workforce demand and supply have had a significant implications on oversaes nurses’ lives and can leave them ‘trapped’ in UK.

“We make recommendations for UK policy-makers to work with key stakeholders in nurse-sending countries to minimise the negative consequences f unstable nurse recruitment,” write the researchers.

Meanwhile, authorities in Malawi have since said once the nurses leave the Ministry of Health system, they cease to be part of the country’s concern and therefore the ministry cannot know of the plight of the migrant nurses in the UK.

“(The Ministry of) Foreign Affairs of (the) Immigration Department would know, but not us. As soon as they leave the ministry they are no longer part of us so we cannot comment on matters of the people that are no longer our employees,” said the ministry Spokesperson Henry Chimbali.

But the Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) has said government needs to act on the nurses’ plight.

“What then is the role of Malawian embassy in the UK if our people can suffer like that? I am hearing this for the first time and it is sad news to me,” said Mhen Executive Director Martha Kwataine.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said his office was not aware of the incident.

Blessing in disguise?  Malawi to retain its medical staff, needed more than ever for growing emergency
Blessing in disguise? Malawi to retain its medical staff, needed more than ever for growing emergency

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