15 December 2023
A new report titled, The Voices of the Experts in Our Midst, launched on 12 December at the Houses of Parliament by the Tropical Health & Education Trust (THET) celebrates diaspora healthcare workers who connect the NHS to 214 health systems around the world.
The report is published as part of THET’s Experts in Our Midst programme which aims to harness the knowledge diaspora staff have of other health systems to develop practical solutions that improve health service delivery in the UK and overseas.
THET Chief Executive Officer, Ben Simms, said: “Diaspora health workers are diplomats who move with ease between health systems, learning as they go. We must listen to their voices as we seek to improve health for everyone, everywhere – the centrepiece of THET’s mission as a UK charity working internationally.”
Mr Simms continued: “It is our belief that the UK does not do enough to celebrate this knowledge or acknowledge how much we gain from the presence of the Experts in Our Midst. We must also realise the responsibility this places on us as a country to support the work of building health systems in countries of heritage, which is why THET believes the UK Government must return to committing 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance.”
Between January to October 2023, THET surveyed 685 diaspora healthcare workers from 70 countries of heritage with responses overwhelmingly highlighting the benefits of overseas training and practice. 74% of responses identified positive practices of diaspora staff within the NHS attributable to overseas experience, while 35% of diaspora staff surveyed say they are involved in improving health in their countries of heritage.
THET also conducted a series of focus groups in September and October 2023, which give a more nuanced understanding of the diaspora health worker experience. Here, diaspora health workers often reported that they felt disregarded and undervalued, with contributions to meetings and planning considered less relevant despite their extensive experience. Of those who reported negative experiences of working in the NHS, a concerning 61.5% believe diaspora staff are unrecognised or underutilised.
The new report also finds many positive experiences of diaspora health workers within the NHS. Respondents referenced opportunities for professional development, a positive working environment, access to world-class training, and an improvement over time toward better onboarding and adaptation to the UK health sector for new diaspora entrants.
Importantly, diaspora health workers make a significant contribution to global health. The results illustrated in the new report highlight the extent of bi-directional benefits of diaspora-led global health initiatives, including research partnerships, exchange programmes, and bi-directional practice based and technological innovations.
THET’s vision is a world where everyone has access to quality healthcare, and the NGO hopes that the new report will contribute to the long-term aspirational role of the UK in building ethical international recruitment strategies for high quality Universal Health Coverage.
Mr Simms added: “THET is deeply excited by diaspora health workers as individuals, and by the ways in which they are using their knowledge of different health systems to improve health for patients in the UK and in their countries of heritage.
“We shall look forward to engaging with colleagues across the NHS and the independent healthcare sector to ensure inclusion and race equality is central to leadership and decision-making in the UK health sector. Together, we can ensure the UK’s health system is fit for the future, benefitting fully from the wealth of knowledge and expertise in our diverse healthcare workforce.”