New government guidance and information for health sector workers and employers about the opportunities and benefits of volunteering abroad.

THET welcomes the publication of the Department for International Development and Department of Health’s Engaging in Global Health, an updated framework for voluntary engagement in global health by the UK health sector.

Engaging in Global Health builds on the well-received Framework for NHS Involvement in International Development, published in 2010 as a response to Lord Crisp’s Global Health Partnerships.

This new guidance aims to bring greater clarity to how the UK health sector can contribute effectively to improving health in low - and middle-income countries. It makes the case for why UK health institutions should support voluntary engagement overseas, outlining the benefits and opportunities for UK employers, professional associations and individual health workers in the UK.

 

Engaging in Global Health through Partnerships

The guidance recognises the central role played by ‘Health Partnerships’ between health institutions in the UK and counterparts overseas and the unique contribution they make to health workforce development across cadres and health systems.

THET has been working with UK health professionals and institutional partnerships for twenty-five years and believes that Health Partnerships are an effective means to exchange professional learning and experiences. They can play a pivotal role, both advancing health globally, and in bringing new knowledge, skills and ideas back to the UK. Those working within Health Partnerships have direct insight into the day to day challenges faced by their peers and are in an excellent position to garner support for volunteering, to lobby others to volunteer and to correctly identify and tackle the challenges faced by their counterparts and the patients they serve.

 

Ensuring that international volunteering becomes an accepted and valued part of the UK health system

The full benefit of the engagement of UK health professionals overseas through volunteering has yet to be realised. Engaging in Global Health determines that voluntary engagement can establish legitimacy and institutional buy-in from the NHS but only if activities are organised, governance arrangements are appropriately structured and risk is assessed and managed effectively.

 

Tools and practical support: As highlighted in Engaging in Global Health a growing body of online tools and practical support is becoming available to help encourage quality activities. THET provides support to the health partnerships community to help deliver effective projects in our resources library.

Quality Improvement

Taking a lead from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health's report Improving Health at Home and Abroad, the government’s new guidance sets out national quality standards as a starting point for building a wider consensus on what represents good practice in voluntary engagement in global health.

THET continually seeks to raise standards and accelerate the professionalism of partnerships. We offer guidance and support to grant holders under the Health Partnership Scheme (HPS) in order to build capabilities within the UK and overseas to design, deliver and evidence effective projects. THET welcomes the approach to quality improvement outlined in the new government guidance and its recommendation for national quality standards. This will lead to a clearer understanding of how engaging in global heath is a legitimate part of today’s NHS, the value it can add and the part it can play in looking outside of the UK to develop new ways of delivering care, allocating resources and improving productivity.

We therefore call on NHS Employers, UK employers of health workers, professional bodies, volunteer programmes and all those who engage in global health activities to engage with the standards set-out in the Department of Health’s guidance

As part of THET’s ongoing approach to quality improvement, THET is developing a Health Partnership Standard which will support health partnerships to apply the principles of partnership to improve the quality and effectiveness of their partnerships. The new Health Partnership Standard will highlight what the most important factors are for successful partnership such as being strategic, flexible, resourceful and innovative or being committed to joint learning. THET will also support the partnership community to work towards this Standard by offering advice, examples and research.