Can Nigerians save the NHS?

At the meat counter of Afro Foods in Peckham, south-east London, 55-year-old Ronke Audu is weighing up the choices. “Nigerians like meat,” she says emphatically, contemplating a big hoof for a cow’s-foot recipe. In the finish she plumps for mutton, to boil up in a wealthy stew with peppers and onions. Powdered yams will present the carbs. “Just like powdered mash,” she laughs, hefting a big bag of it. But at a value: “It’s not good for cholesterol. No, no.”

She ought to know. Audu is a nurse at close by King’s College Hospital, half of a giant and rising contingent of Nigerian-born NHS employees, presently greater than 11,000 sturdy. Some, like her, have been in Britain for many years, and have gone on to boost households right here. But others are simply arriving, a part of a brand new wave of post-Brexit migration, which has seen numbers of non-EU employees coming to Britain soar as Eastern Europeans head again to their dwelling international locations. Say goodbye to the Polish plumber, hey to the Nigerian nurse. 

The change is revealed by an unique evaluation of Labour Force Survey statistics for The Telegraph performed by the Migration Observatory at Oxford University. It reveals that 30.6 per cent of Nigerians come to work in British well being and social care, in contrast with simply 9.8 per cent for EU employees. And whereas nearly 1 / 4 of EU employees crammed posts in manufacturing and building, the equal for Nigerians is simply 8 per cent. 

“The standout point is how over-represented Nigerians are in health and social care,” says Rob McNeil, the Observatory’s deputy director. “Very much more than the UK- or EU-born populations.”

Indeed, one may argue that they’re wanted now greater than ever, given the newest survey of 20,000 nurses by the Royal College of Nursing, which discovered that eight in 10 nurses stated the staffing ranges on their final shift had been insufficient. Staffing gaps have risen by nearly 50 per cent in simply 5 years, with the lack of 25,000 employees final year.

Nigerians arriving in Britain in the present day are a part of a much wider development of non-EU immigration. Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates now present that, whereas annual EU immigration fell by 51,000 between 2016 and 2019, non-EU immigration rose 108,000. A complete of 843,538 non-EU visas had been issued final year, the overwhelming majority permitting lengthy stays, greater than 1 / 4 of one million greater than earlier than Brexit. According to the Migration Observatory, Britain’s foreign-born labour pressure has grown 400,000 since 2016, to five.9m employees – with the improve all accounted for by arrivals from past the EU. 

Oppressed at dwelling, Ukrainian and Hong Kongers are arriving in distinctive numbers. Among different nationalities, nevertheless, it’s Nigerians whose numbers have leapt the most, with the variety of work visas issued to residents of the Commonwealth nation up 700 per cent in the 5 years since Brexit. According to Statista, the variety of Nigerian nationals resident in the UK is up 68,000 in a year, from 114,000 in 2020 to 178,000. 

Among them are Damilola Adesina, Temitope Adewunmi and Yetunde Alao, who now work on the wards at Victoria Hospital, in Deal, on the Kent coast, amongst a bunch of 19 nurses recruited from Nigeria and Ghana by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT). In a report for KCHFT, chief nurse Dr Mercia Spare notes that the Nigerian nurses had been serving to to fill a crucial staffing disaster: “The NHS has struggled to recruit qualified nurses; across the whole of the UK there are around 90,000 vacancies in nursing and clinical roles.” 

In the report, Matron Suzanne Vogle says that after six weeks of additional coaching and a sensible examination, “Dami, Temi and Yetty are very much part of the family. It’s wonderful to have them, they are very highly qualified and such lovely people. We’ve tried not to throw them in the deep end right away but, as nurses, they just want to get stuck in, of course.”

Alao is 35, and has a two-year-old daughter, Bliss. According to the well being belief, her husband, Lanre, is an engineer in Nigeria and hopes to hitch Yetty in the UK as quickly as he can. Adesina, additionally 35, from Ogun state in south-western Nigeria, has two sons, Daniel, 4, and Joel, two. “When I found out I had got the job I called my husband Adeniyi straight away. We were so excited,” she says. “The people in Deal have been so welcoming and kind… My family will be joining me later this month.”

Adewunmi, 38, has two daughters – Olasubomi, 10, and Mobolaji, seven – and is from Lagos, “where I was working in an acute surgical ward”. Like her two compatriots she is now in the very completely different subject of group nursing, important in a city during which half the 32,000-strong inhabitants is over 50, and 27.5 per cent over 65 (in contrast with 19 per cent nationally). “I was looking for roles in the community as I had previously worked in home-based care and in schools, which I really enjoyed,” she says. 

According to the 2011 census, simply 67 residents of Deal had been black, with 29,955 white. But the trio say they’ve been warmly welcomed. “Everyone at the hospital is lovely,” says Alao. “I have already gained so much knowledge. The patients are also lovely, we have been listened to and treated with respect by everyone.”

The must plug gaps in NHS rosters is one cause that Boris Johnson’s authorities has adopted what, maybe counter-intuitively, is a decidedly liberal post-Brexit immigration coverage. While deportations to Rwanda for unlawful migrants have dominated the headlines, authorized migration has dominated the actuality. 

“These are deliberate choices,” says Sunder Katwala, director of the think-tank British Future. “What Boris Johnson did, which Theresa May was not going to do, was in 2019 he made those rules softer than they were going to be.”

One key impact is that quotas for visas for non-EU international locations have been scrapped. “You just ended up in a queue. You could be a lawyer earning 60 grand, but you just ended up in a lottery at the end of every month when the quota was full. Now if you’ve got the points, you get the visa.”

The 70 required factors to get a piece visa have been made considerably simpler to acquire because of the widening record of professions, from chef to bricklayer, meeting its ability requirement. As Deal’s three Nigerian nurses know, well being and care is one other key qualifying sector. 

Under post-Brexit coverage, non-EU scholar visas additionally present a “really quite easy” route into work in Britain, says Katwala. Before, college students may keep on in the event that they secured a job. But they’d to take action whereas learning. Now, says Katwala, “you can stay for two years while you look”. 

As a outcome non-EU scholar visas have risen 41 per cent from 294,000 in 2016 to 416,250 final year. “One of the reasons that there’s been this upsurge in Nigerian student visas, I would guess, is that they find the graduate visa quite attractive because they like the idea of staying on here,” says Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public coverage at King’s College London. 

“Lots of people have come to study,” says George Mwagu, a senior officer at the National Association of Nigerian Communities. So whereas the conventional coronary heart of the Nigerian group in Britain has been south London, notably in Peckham, he says many new arrivals are heading to school cities additional afield – “places like Sheffield and Nottingham”.

The inflow is an echo of 40 years in the past, when the Nigerian financial system was badly hit by a downturn in oil manufacturing and costs, prompting a primary Nigerian exodus to south London. Coincidentally, then too, Nigerians in Peckham succeeded Polish immigrants, who had arrived throughout the warfare. 

Today, the Nigerian financial system is once more a key cause to go away. A decade in the past, 100 Nigerian naira was price about 40p; in the present day it’s price 19p. “I still go back every year,” says Audu, “and five years ago I would have said I would eventually go back for good. Not now. Things have deteriorated so fast. There are such high levels of poverty. People can’t pay for anything. And the government is doing nothing to help. The cost of everything is so high and there’s no NHS if you fall sick.”

Economic malaise has led to rising crime, she provides. “Corruption is at its highest level ever. Insecurity is systemic. Kidnappings, even. And people who come back from Britain are special targets because they are seen as rich. Before she died last year, my mother said: ‘No, don’t come back. Life is not good here’.”

Such crises imply that, in keeping with a survey by the African Polling Institute final year, 70 per cent of Nigerians would depart their nation if they may, up from 32 per cent solely two years earlier. Yet if Nigerians see the UK as an escape from the pressures of dwelling, some right here have warnings that not all the things will likely be straightforward. 

“They think that the West is best,” says Lagos-born Linda Joseph, 53, searching the aisles at FAS, a magnificence merchandise provider for the Afro-Caribbean group in Peckham. “But then they come here and find the harsh reality about the economy, immigration, prices, food, jobs. It’s not easy.” She mentions the Windrush scandal, during which the Home Office wrongly detained and deported Commonwealth residents, a few of whom had labored in Britain for many years. “Now that the going is getting tough, the [UK government] is giving out visas. But is it to come now then get deported? There’s not much trust.”

But there’s a vital cultural affect, not least in issues of religion. “We love God,” says Alysia, whose wares at the Kingdom Gift Centre embrace church provides and Amazing Grace fragrance. “Coming from Africa, we have seen our parents pray and God answer. My mother went on her knees. When there was no food, the Lord provided. You hear that and give thanks to God.”

Such fervent perception has borne fruit in the look of pentacostal church buildings – Christ Apostolic Church (Vineyard of Comfort); Redeemed Church; the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry – which had been based in Nigeria however now have outposts in Britain. And Nigeria’s sizeable – and conservative – Anglican group has an impact on the Church of England. Last November, on a visit to Britain, primate of the Church of Nigeria Henry Ndukuba demanded believers be “absolutely loyal to the authority of the scriptures and to the historic Christian faith, as the Church received it from the apostles who were eye-witnesses and servants of the word”. In January, he described homosexuality as a “deadly virus” which ought to be “radically expunged and excised”, drawing condemnation from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Nigerians are completely different to the native workforce in different methods too. While information just isn’t country-specific, some 34 per cent of sub-Saharan immigrants work in jobs thought of by the ONS to be “high skilled” in contrast with 30 per cent for EU and native employees. At £29,000, the median wage is simply larger than that of Britons, which stands at £28,400. Such wages clarify why so many visas at the moment are issued, as they simply qualify for the points-based visa’s minimal of £20,480, in addition to the £25,600 threshold – which brings a most 20 factors. 

Naturally, a few of that money and expertise finally ends up again in Nigeria. But a lot enriches the regional financial system and tradition, or at the very least that a part of the regional financial system and tradition that haven’t been snapped up by Nigerians themselves. “You see this,” says one girl tapping a crate of Guinness in Stella’s Grocery (Fresh Veg from Africa Daily) on Rye Lane, Peckham. “It’s not Irish, it’s Nigerian, she says. Any party in Nigeria is not complete without it.” 

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