Ghana on UK’s red list for health workers’ recruitment

On March 23, 2023, the United Kingdom announced a ‘red list’ of 54 countries that should not be actively targeted for recruitment by health and social care employers. It says the list is based upon the World Health Organization (WHO) Workforce Support and Safeguard List, 2023. According to WHO, “these countries face the most pressing health workforce challenges related to universal health coverage.’’

The UK government announced this in its revised code of practice for international recruitment of health and social care personnel published on the NHS Employers website. 

The countries placed on the red list are Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia.

Other countries are Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Federated States of Micronesia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Republic of Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

However, some news sites such as legontoday.com have, however, published news stories with headlines such as “The UK stops recruiting healthcare workers from Ghana.” But has the UK stopped recruiting health workers from Ghana based on its revised code of practice for international recruitment? DUBAWA sought to bring an understanding to it.

The UHC Service Coverage Index

According to the World Bank, the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Service Coverage Index is a coverage index for essential health services (based on tracer interventions that include reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and service capacity and access). It is presented on a scale of 0 to 100.

However, the National Health Service of the UK explained that the listed countries have a UHC Service Coverage index lower than 50 and a density of doctors, nurses and midwives below the global median (48.6 per 10,000 population). 

What does this mean?

In a Twitter thread, the Vice President of the policy think tank Imani Africa Bright Simons explained that the World Health Organization (WHO) had placed Ghana on its safeguard list because it had a low UHC Service Coverage Index below 50. The move is to prevent the movement of health professionals from the country because they are needed locally.

Does this mean the UK has stopped recruiting health workers from Ghana? 

According to Bright Simons, that is not the case. He explained that ‘Red List Health Workers’’ are not barred from migrating, but their active recruitment is barred. Employment agencies must not seek to attract health workers from such countries, including Ghana.

“Reports that the UK has placed Ghana and Nigeria on a red list of countries where nurses, doctors and care workers cannot migrate to the UK to work is incorrect. Rather, Ghana and Nigeria have been on a WHO Safeguard List barring active recruitment from Red List countries,’’ he said.

Active recruitment from ‘Red list countries’

The keyword in the announcement was that listed countries should not be actively targeted for recruitment.” The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK defines “actively targeted for recruitment” as the process by which UK health and social care employers (including local authorities), contracting bodies, recruitment organisations, agencies, collaborations, and sub-contractors target individuals to market UK employment opportunities, to recruit to a role in the UK health or social care sector.”

This definition means the UK will not recruit health workers from recruitment agencies in Ghana.  

However, the National Health Service (NHS) says these health workers can directly apply to the UK without going through any recruitment agency. It defined a direct application as “when an individual makes an application directly and on their behalf to an employing organising. Direct applications do not use a third party, such as a recruitment organisation, agency, or collaboration.’

It, however, added that  “a direct application can only be made in response to a vacancy that is hosted by, and recruited to, the same sponsoring organisation.”


Per the statement from the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, the health workers from the fifty-four countries on its revised code of practice for international recruitment of health and social care personnel have not been barred from working in the UK. The UK has basically stopped recruiting health workers through recruitment agencies in those countries. However, health workers can apply directly to the UK without any third party. 

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