Picture credit: Science Photo Library/Getty
Artillery Row

How widespread is NHS qualifications fraud?

A viral Twitter post raises uncomfortable questions about the level of training in British institutions

Last week, Jeremy Hunt claimed that the NHS is “the biggest reason most of us are proud to be British”. Among the things that occurred to Parliament Square — most of them unprintable — was the memory of a piece published in February by, of all places, the Guardian.

Hundreds of nurses, the Guardian reported, were being investigated for “industrial-scale” qualifications fraud. “More than 700 nurses,” Denis Campbell wrote

… are caught up in a potential scandal, which a former head of the Royal College of Nursing said could put NHS patients at risk.  

The scam allegedly involves proxies impersonating nurses and taking a key test in Nigeria, which must be passed for them to become registered and allowed to work in the UK.

Granted, these investigations have not concluded. Still — anecdotal evidence is now suggesting that the problem may be even broader. Today, a young woman posted on Twitter:

I didn’t realise African kids were actually out here doing their parents uni work. No wonder so many nurses seem mad. They’re not qualified.

A funny post if it isn’t taken seriously. But the responses were concerning. Here is a selection:

we’ve all been here

I could tell you ALL about septic shock, just saying

I did my mums, my aunts – I should be a damn qualified Nurse and Health and Social Care degree holder me! Everybody got a first degree!

People in the QTs are bare surprised 😂 when you spend time in a hospital you’ll see the frauds left right and centre 

Na I remember my aunty made me do this when I was like 12 😂 sis said she wasn’t dropping me home until I finished her work. My name needs to go onto that certificate

They just want the SFE [Student Finance England] and not the work so yes unfortunately a lot of elders be out here getting their children/nieces & nephews to complete their assignments for them.

Credit to the last poster for the “unfortunately”.

Granted, people do say things online that they don’t mean. But after conservatives and nationalists began to draw alarmed or derisive attention to these posts, the tone did not change to “they’re just kidding” but “stop snitching”:

u lot don’t know how to keep quiet

The internet will be the end of some people because they don’t know when to stop sharing.

y’all slow asses have just given them a new load of ammunition

See what happens when you open your mouth and yapa yapa yapa like a rat

Granted, this is not proof that the original posters were being serious — but these posters certainly think that they were being serious. Parliament Square does not believe it should be controversial to say that the nastiest online nationalists’ words on the screen could not do as much damage as a nurse with fraudulent qualifications. Perhaps priorities are not entirely in order here?

Meanwhile, beyond the shouty milieu of anonymous Twitter, no one seems to have noticed the fuss. Will the Independent’s “race columnist” Nadine White be looking into this? Perhaps after she has investigated why black staff are less likely to view the NHS as an inclusive place to work.

Interestingly, the General Medical Council has reported:

… ethnic minority doctors are twice as likely to be referred to us by their employer than white doctors. And doctors who gained their medical degree outside the UK are three times more likely to be referred to us than doctors who took their medical degree in the UK.

These, for the GMC, are examples of discrimination and inequality”. But when are the referrals justified and when are they not? Parliament Square thinks this should be investigated if Jeremy Hunt’s pride is going to endure.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover