Doctors recruited from some of the poorest countries in the world to work in hospitals in the UK say they are facing exploitation and are so overworked they worry about putting patients’ health at risk.
A BBC investigative report, found evidence that doctors from Nigeria are being targeted by a British healthcare company called NES Healthcare.
The investigation found they are expected to work in private hospitals under conditions that are not allowed in the National Health Service, UK’s publicly funded healthcare system.
The NES Healthcare however disputes the BBC findings and insists it provides a safe and supportive career route.
The company says feedback about doctors’ experiences with them is extremely positive.
But the British Medical Association has called some of the working conditions a disgrace to UK medicine, BBC reports says.
According to BBC, They spoke to several foreign medics, including a young Nigerian doctor who worked at the private Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital in 2021.
Augustine Enekwechi says his hours were extreme – on-call 24 hours a day for a week at a time – and that he was unable to leave the hospital grounds. He says working there felt like being in “a prison”.
The tiredness was so intense, he says, there were times he worried he couldn’t properly function.
“I knew that working tired puts the patients at risk and puts myself also at risk, as well for litigation,” he says. “I felt powerless… helpless, you know, constant stress and thinking something could go wrong.”
Augustine was hired out to the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital from a private company – NES Healthcare. It specialises in employing doctors from overseas, many from Nigeria, and using them as Resident Medical Officers, or RMOs – live-in doctors found mainly in the private sector.
Augustine says he was so excited to be offered a job that he barely looked at the NES contract. In fact it opted him out of legislation that protects UK workers from excessive working hours – the Working Time Directive – and left him vulnerable to a range of punishing salary deductions.
The doctors we spoke to said they were attracted by the potential of higher salaries and better working conditions. The event was being overseen by staff from the British Council – an organisation sponsored by the Foreign Office.