Exam Scandal: Nigerian Nurses and Midwives Under Scrutiny in the UK for Suspected Fraudulent Qualifications

Approximately 50 nurses and midwives from overseas currently working in the UK are under investigation for suspected fraudulent qualification, according to MailOnline’s recent findings.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has officially acknowledged that 48 professionals from Nigeria are suspected of having paid someone to take a computer-based exam assessing medical knowledge, which is a prerequisite for employment in the United Kingdom.

The NMC has expressed a strong belief that the individuals it has identified are highly likely to have obtained their exam results through fraudulent means.

Despite ongoing investigations, the regulatory authority has informed MailOnline that these individuals will continue to provide patient care, although it’s worth noting that not all of them are necessarily working in healthcare roles.

This decision has faced criticism from Thinktanks, who argue that the regulator holds a responsibility to safeguard patients and that allowing individuals under suspicion to continue practicing could potentially jeopardise the well-being of both adults and newborns.

The 48 individuals in question had taken the examination, which includes topics such as drug dosage calculations and clinical queries related to health issues like diabetes, at the Yunnik Technologies Test Centre located in Ibadan, situated in the southwest region of Nigeria.

Following an investigation conducted by the NMC, substantial evidence of widespread fraudulent activities was uncovered at this testing center. Consequently, all the test results issued by this center have been invalidated.

Initially, concerns were raised about the legitimacy of the qualifications of 515 nurses and midwives who had taken their exams at this center. However, after thorough scrutiny, the NMC has narrowed down the list of applicants who are ‘likely’ to have engaged in fraudulent activities to 48 individuals.

An independent panel will now evaluate the cases of these nurses and midwives to determine whether they gained entry to the NMC register through fraudulent means. If the panel concludes that fraudulent methods were indeed employed, these individuals would be stripped of their registration and subsequently lose their eligibility to work as nurses or midwives in the UK.

However, throughout this process, these individuals will still be permitted to work in the UK without any restrictions in place.

On the contrary, those who receive clearance from the panel, along with the remaining 467 nurses and midwives who had taken the test at the aforementioned center, will be required to successfully retake the examination to retain their eligibility to work in the healthcare sector in the UK.

Professor Len Shackleton, an editorial and research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, expressed his concern over healthcare professionals with questionable qualifications continuing to provide patient care.

He said: ‘There are doubts about remote testing centres in many academic disciplines — but it’s especially worrying to see this in nursing and midwifery where incompetent individuals threaten the health of adults and new-borns.

Nobody wants to see individuals who may be innocent automatically penalised, but the nursing regulator has a duty to protect patients, and the sensibilities of those whose qualifications are in doubt must come second to this duty.’

Professor Shackleton added that the situation demonstrated the dangers of the UK’s over-reliance on oversees trained nurses to fill staffing gaps in the NHS. ‘This episode should also spur the UK government to finance the training of a higher proportion of our own medical staff rather than relying on endless imports of doctors and nurses from poorer countries,’ he said.

Currently, it remains unclear what percentage of the 48 nurses and midwives under suspicion are actively employed in healthcare or social care roles in Britain and in what specific areas.

Additionally, there are 669 nurses and midwives in the process of applying to work in the UK who have not yet commenced employment but are believed to have obtained their results fraudulently. The NMC has stated that these individuals will need to retake the examination and undergo a character assessment.

Furthermore, another 771 Nigerian applicants, who have been cleared of any fraud or dishonesty, will also be required to retake the exam due to the invalidation of all results from the aforementioned center.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said she was sympathetic to those innocent applicants caught up in the fraud scandal.

‘We understand this continues to be a distressing time for people facing uncertainty about their application or place on our register,’ she said.

‘We’re committed to managing these concerns in the safest and fairest way we can.

‘It’s been essential to look carefully at all the data and other information presented to us before deciding on the right and proportionate approach for everyone.’

The computer-based test is administered by Pearson VUE, a company responsible for its management.

Matthew Poyiadgi, Vice President of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia at Pearson VUE, stated that the company is actively implementing measures to prevent any such fraud from occurring in the future.

‘For all testing companies, threats to test integrity are rapidly evolving and attempted proxy testing is an unfortunate, periodic occurrence,’ he said. 

‘We conduct regular security checks at all our testing sites and employ cutting-edge technologies to detect any type of fraudulent activity.’

Before the suspension of testing, approximately five percent of all Nigerian professionals listed on the NMC register had taken their examinations at the Yunnik Technologies Test Centre.

Currently, there are 10,639 registered Nigerian-trained nurses and midwives in the UK, making them the third-largest group of internationally trained nursing and midwifery professionals, trailing behind India and the Philippines.

The recruitment of healthcare professionals from Nigeria by British institutions has sparked controversy. Nigeria is categorized as a ‘red list’ country for the recruitment of health professionals, signifying that the poaching of staff from Nigeria could jeopardise its own healthcare and care system.

Although the NHS is prohibited from directly recruiting staff from red list countries, individual healthcare workers can still apply for positions in the UK.

Experts have consistently expressed concerns regarding the UK’s growing reliance on recruiting healthcare personnel from other nations to fill staffing shortages in the NHS and social care. This practice has raised alarms, as it places the UK in direct competition with other countries like Australia and the United States, which are also seeking to attract a limited pool of global nursing talent.

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