The Benefits of Overseas Volunteering
Partnerships are based on trust, equality, and mutual understanding for the achievement of a specified goal. This means the benefits to be gained from partnerships are two-way.
The infographic below outlines the findings and recommendations detailed in the APPG report: Improving health at home and abroad, how overseas volunteering from the NHS benefits the UK and the world.
THET and Volunteering
Despite the clear benefits that overseas volunteering brings to low- and middle-income countries, barriers still remain for health workers who would like to volunteer abroad. THET has made an effort to understand these barriers, help reduce those barriers, and ensure maximum benefits to both the volunteers and their partners in developing countries through health partnerships.
As part of the Health Partnership Scheme (HPS) funded by DFID, THET has awarded four large long-term volunteering grants. These grants are for UK organisations interested in running long-term volunteering programs. These programmes are now sending over 100 UK health professionals to developing countries across Africa and Asia for 6-24 months. More information about these programmes can be found
- THET conducted a survey in 2012 to assess the knowledge and attitudes of UK doctors with regards to international volunteering and to investigate the perceived barriers to international volunteering. THET is using these survey findings to challenge several of the perceived barriers among employers by showing demonstrable benefits. For example, by actively encouraging the gathering of evidence through existing structures such as NHS leadership and Knowledge and Skills frameworks on what individuals and institutions in the UK gain from their overseas experience. These survey findings were used to inform the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges statement supporting overseas volunteering.
- THET engages in discussions with government actors (e.g. DH UK, DH International, DFID), academic institutions, regulatory bodies (e.g. GMC, NMC, HCPC), NGOs, NHS employers, and other important actors in developing potential solutions to eliminating barriers to international volunteering. Recently, THET participated in the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges International Forum, which resulted in a statement issued by the Academy that supports the encouragement of overseas volunteering among health care professionals in the UK, now endorsed by UK health sector institutions.
- THET supports volunteers by providing resources and support to the UK partner institutions to ensure their volunteers are well-prepared for their trips (see Health Links Manual and good practice guidance on Volunteer Sending). THET also actively encourages volunteers to use this toolkit designed to gather evidence of what individuals and institutions in the UK gain from their overseas experience.
- THET raises awareness in the health professions community about the possibilities of volunteering abroad. This has included a poster titled “The Volunteer Journey: Potential Benefits, Barriers, Challenges and Solutions,” which was presented at THET’s 2012 annual conference. Through education, THET can address barriers such as lack of information, organisational understanding, unclear HR process, and safety concerns (all cited in as other significant barriers to international volunteering in the 2012 survey of doctors).
- THET co-chairs the NHS Overseas Volunteering Group with the NHS Workforce Division tasked with finding practical solutions to barriers to volunteering.