African nurses and doctors have been issued almost 68,000 work permits to work in the UK since 2000, figures show.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, 67,685 permits have been approved for the health professionals from Africa, according to immigration minister Phil Woolas.
Medical staff from South Africa were issued 21,970 permits, while Zimbabweans received 17,845 and 9,740 went to Nigerians.
A further 4,475 went to Ghanaian doctors and nurses, 2,655 to health workers from Mauritius and 2,575 to staff from Zambia.
But Mr Woolas said the figures, released in a written parliamentary answer to Labour former minister Hilary Armstrong, did not equate to the number of individuals actually working in the country because they included extensions and new permits for people moving jobs.
'Not all those who were granted a permit took up the job and some may have been refused entry clearance or further leave to remain,' he added.
The Centre for Global Development, in the US, last year confirmed fears about the so-called 'brain drain' phenomenon by revealing that many African countries have more doctors and nurses working abroad than at home.
Related article: Are we failing overseasnurses?
Need to keep ahead of nursing news and clinical developments? Let us help. Get a comprehensive round-up delivered free to your inbox every day. Simply click here, log in and select 'Daily news alert'