“The most effective government action to support NHS overseas work in recent years has been the Health Partnerships Scheme (HPS). The funding and expertise this has provided is having a transformative effect on the number and quality of international links between the NHS and developing countries.”
Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health launched a report on overseas volunteering and partnerships from the NHS. The report, Improving health at home and abroad: How overseas volunteering from the NHS benefits the UK and the world looks at the role of NHS staff who volunteer overseas have in advancing health globally and bringing new knowledge, skills and ideas back to the UK, and what can be done to facilitate this work further.
The report focuses on quality, coordination and on sustaining success through national policy support. It makes three recommendations:
- A ‘kite-marking’ scheme for local NHS partnerships to help ‘raise the bar’ in how they manage staff that would like to volunteer abroad.
- It also calls for a network of regional Global Health Volunteering Centres to be developed over time across the newly-established Local Education and Training Boards that oversee the training and development of NHS staff.
- Finally, the report calls for greater support through national policy, including an extension to the Health Partnership Scheme, which is currently due to expire in 2015.
THET has been working with institutional partnerships or ‘links’ between the UK and their developing country counterparts for over two decades and has been at the forefront of efforts to facilitate the growth of this community. Our vision for volunteering through partnerships is for an environment where it is regarded as the norm, not the exception, for all UK health professionals. As such, we welcome the APPG’s focus on this area and it’s recognition that there is a huge scope and enthusiasm to build on overseas volunteering schemes to increase mutual benefits between the UK and partner countries.
We support the report’s recommendation for the creation of a ‘kite-marking’ scheme to accelerate the sharing and adoption of good practices. We are currently working on identifying criteria for ‘Quality Standards within Partnerships’ which could significantly inform this process. We see potential in gradually growing a network of regional health volunteering centres and would welcome the opportunity to work with Health Education England and the Local Education and Training Boards.
We view the launch of this report as an opportunity for health partnerships, and for those who have volunteered through them, to share the benefits of their experiences. We urge those who believe that “overseas volunteering is already a valuable asset to the NHS, and could be contributing much more still” to share this report with colleagues and with your local MP. You can find out more about how to do this on our website by clicking on the buttons below.