Forty-eight Nigeria-trained nurses and midwives who ‘likely’ qualified fraudulently are still being allowed to treat patients while under investigation in the UK.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) on Friday confirmed that 48 Nigerian professionals are suspected of paying someone to sit a computer-based exam that tests medical knowledge and is needed to work in Britain.
The NMC said it was ‘more likely than not’ that those it has identified obtained their result fraudulently, according to Mail Online.
However, the regulator told Mail Online that they will still be allowed to treat patients while investigations are underway — though not all are necessarily working in healthcare.
The 48 people identified sat the exam, which covers drug dosage calculations and clinical questions for health issues like diabetes, at the Yunnik Technologies Test Centre in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria.
An investigation by the NMC found ‘evidence of widespread fraudulent activity’ at the centre, meaning all the test results it has issued have now been deemed invalid.
While doubts were initially cast over 515 nurses and midwives who sat the test at the centre, the NMC narrowed the list of ‘likely’ fraudulent applicants down to 48.
These nurses and midwives will have their case assessed by an independently appointed panel to decide if they gained fraudulent entry to the NMC register.
If the panel determines they did, they would be removed from register, losing the right to work as nurse or midwife in the UK.
But during this process, they will still be allowed to work in the UK without restrictions.
However, those who are cleared by the panel, and the 467 other nurses and midwives from Nigeria who took the test at the centre will have to successfully resit the test to be allowed to continue working in healthcare in the UK.
Professor Len Shackleton, an editorial and research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs told MailOnline it was unacceptable for health professionals with dubious qualifications to continue to treat patients.
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.”
It is unknown what portion of the 48 nurses and midwives under suspicion are currently working in health or social care roles in Britain and in what areas.
An additional 669 nurses and midwives in the process of applying to work in the UK, but have not started employment, are also believed to have obtained their result fraudulently.
The NMC said these individuals will need to sit a new test and will also have to pass a character assessment process.
Another 771 Nigerian applicants cleared of any fraud and dishonesty will also have to resit the exam due to all results at the centre being ruled invalid.
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.”