In Kenya, for instance, where 20 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 (89p) a day, the country loses $518,000 for every doctor and $339,000 for every nurse who emigrates to the UK.
Britain gives substantial aid to Ghana to fight malaria and reduce infant mortality, but these sums are exceeded by the £65m Britain saves by employing 293 doctors trained in Ghana and a further £38m saved on 1,021 Ghanaian nurses who work here.
The poaching of doctors and nurses has grown worse since the 1980s, but the outflow from poor countries has become a flood since the start of the pandemic. In the last 18 months, the number of doctors trained abroad but licensed to practice in the UK has risen from 66,000 to 80,000.
The NHS – and the health services of other well-off countries – can claim that doctors and nurses emigrate voluntarily, but this argument is disingenuous. Impoverished governments unable to pay decent salaries or provide modern working and living conditions are never going to be as attractive to medical staff as places able to provide these advantages.