Ethical leadership in an era of health worker mobility
In the UK we struggle to educate, train and retain enough health workers in sufficient numbers. Since the inception of the NHS in 1948, we have relied on a steady stream of professionals recruited from elsewhere. Many of these individuals, whose training has often been paid for by their own governments, come from countries facing grave shortages of health workers themselves, particularly low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) in Africa and Asia that can ill afford to lose such a precious resource.
The report argues that the UK can no longer take for granted its status as a ‘destination of choice’ for health workers, and is written with a conviction that the UK’s response to the global shortage of health workers should be to forge closer, more collaborative links between our health service and those of LMICs in order to establish the UK as a trusted partner internationally.
Our aim for From Competition to Collaboration is to help guide our partners in government in these challenging times by articulating an ethical route through the immense challenges of workforce shortages, drawing on our second preoccupying concern as a charity: the fate and wellbeing of the NHS. The specific timing of this report is shaped by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU); we must ensure that the UK’s efforts to help establish resilient health systems overseas are not undermined by our need to attract health workers to the UK. The report seeks, therefore, to articulate how we can work in ways that both strengthen the NHS and the health services of LMICs.
The world will be short of 18 million health workers by 2030.
Of the top 15 countries NHS staff are most commonly recruited from, seven are LMICs.
In Uganda, 29,000 nurses are unemployed out of a total registered workforce of 64,000.
The UK is well placed to provide ethical leadership in shaping the migration and mobility of health workers.
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I call on fellow governments in the UK as well as in other countries to heed this report’s recommendations.
Dr Diana Atwine - Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Uganda
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