By World Healthcare Journal-
Globalising opportunities for education, training, and knowledge exchange is a win-win for global health systems, says Ged Byrne Director of Global Engagement for Health Education England.
Across the world there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. In the UK alone there are currently 4500 nursing vacancies and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the workforce gap will reach 18m by 2030. The challenges in the UK are mirrored across the globe as countries struggle to educate, deploy and retain healthcare workers in the face of changing disease patterns coupled with either ageing or growing populations.
Yet within the challenge lies opportunity. The WHO Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel recognises the contribution international migration can make to developing and strengthening health systems when properly managed. In the UK 12.5per cent of the workforce are from overseas, while many healthcare workers have had overseas experience and report that it has positively impacted their personal and professional development.
Health Education England recognises that, as one of the most effective universal health healthcare systems in the world, the NHS is equipped to respond to workforce development requests through bilateral agreements to share technical expertise and workforce planning, education and training.
“My approach to this is based on global workforce need rather than individual country needs,’ says Ged Byrne. “We recognise that much of our work meets the needs of the NHS as well as our partner countries so it is genuinely mutually beneficial. We should take our rightful responsibility as a centre of excellence for workforce development for the globe to utilise every element of resource to train and educate people. Some of them will stay, some will go elsewhere but overall we will improve the global workforce shortage. ”
Working in Partnership
Currently HEE is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support technical assistance programmes in Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. Bilateral discussions are taking place with Greece, Saudi Arabia and China on workforce planning, education and training.
HEE also sponsors the the ‘Gulu Link’ ,a successful collaboration in northern Uganda which began in 2007 as a partnership with the University of Manchester, University Hospital of South Manchester, the Faculty of Medicine at Gulu University, and the Regional Referral Hospital in Gulu. Now the number of partners in the UK is increasing as the project has a successful volunteering record that benefits both sides, encompassing staff from medical, nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, administrative and management backgrounds delivering healthcare directly to people in Gulu. It also facilitates shorter length trips for healthcare educators who deliver education and support and those undertaking research.
“We also have a successful Global Health Fellowship Programme in South Africa that recruits doctors in England during their speciality training and deploys them in an operational capacity to rural, resource- poor hospitals working alongside South African and international colleagues on a 12 months contract at local government rates of pay,”
“In the UK we can’t recruit enough GPs but a lot of new graduates want a global experience so we have combined the two issues,” he continues. “We identified the 120 training slots for general practice that were the least popular and increased them to a four year programme to include a year abroad paid for by the Pretoria government. Now we are considering expanding this programme into Zambia, the Congo and Uganda. There is also a leadership programme for healthcare professionals that introduces transformational care within a country. ”
In low and middle income countries HEE works with international health capacity building organisations such as THET, (Tropical Health and Education Trust) to train health workers through leveraging the expertise of the UK health community. In the past seven years THET has partnered with more than 130 UK health institutions, reaching 84,000 health workers in 31 countries.
“The NHS is not a specialist nor is it funded to undertake capacity programmes in a specialist field,” says Ged. “So we see HEE’s global engagement as the workforce supply side and any capacity building is done by organisations such as THET on the system’s behalf. ”
Training Overseas Staff in the NHS
The NHS has always employed overseas staff. The WHO has shown that modern migration patterns are more circular, and increasingly individuals return to their own countries with enhanced learning and skills. Through the development of ethical ‘earn, learn and return’ type programmes there are increased opportunities by 2021 for 5,500 nurses, up to 300 emergency medicine doctors, 120 senior radiologists and 100 radiographers to come to the UK for their professional development. In addition, there are further opportunities for doctors and other healthcare professionals to learn in the UK through schemes such as the Medical Training Initiative – which are expanding as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan
“It’s a win-win scenario for us because over the short and medium term we need the nurses here in the UK,”
says Ged. “By recruiting internationally we eliminate agency fees while giving a global experience to a nurse that they can then use to develop their professional life and career if they choose to return. ”
Strategic Partnerships and Technical Support
In an increasingly globalised world with ever more mobile populations, HEE considers it important to work with others to strengthen health systems so that all countries, including the UK, are better able to deal with new and emerging health challenges.
“When understanding the workforce, the importance of a holistic understanding of the Labour Market cannot be understated. While strategic planning in the NHS can certainly be improved, to many countries it represents the gold standard. The NHS’ expertise delivering universal health coverage system is in high demand. We are working with other countries to help develop their own universal health coverage systems and improve their Human Resources for Health planning capacity and capability,” says Ged. “We are working with Saudi Arabia, Greece, Egypt, Kuwait, Tanzania and Kenya to understand how to reach the same point as the NHS in terms of HRH planning and workforce transformation.
“By enabling placement exchanges into and out of the NHS, providing technical support on workforce planning, education and training and through opportunities for shared learning we can create the most mutually beneficial relationships with other countries which are more likely to be high impact and sustainable in the long-term. ”
HEE Global Engagement: firstname.lastname@example.org