A friend recently sent me a Government circular on the relaxation of restrictions on the recruitment of medical professionals from outside the European Union to help cope with the NHS staffing shortfalls.
The evidence from our surgeries, clinics and hospitals indicates that a significant fraction of any new recruits will be from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). According to March 2013 data from the UK General Medical Council, a large proportion of all UK doctors were trained in South Africa, Nigeria and Sudan. The factors behind this net in-flow include better pay and aggressive UK recruitment.
Indeed, with the EU alone predicted to need 1 million extra health professionals by 2020 according to the European Commission, these demand pressures are not going to disappear.
But the flipside of the UK’s gain is a huge cost to SSA nations in terms of lost healthcare resources that they have paid to train and develop which, in turn, underpins poorer health outcomes.
So how should SSA governments respond? One avenue has been to insist that local staff serve a minimum period at home. But poor monitoring and follow-through has rendered such an approach largely ineffectual.
A better, but harder, process would start by recognising that what is effectively a global demand/supply imbalance requires a global response. This means SSA nations acting in concert and, if possible, in partnership with other significant exporters of health workers, such as the Caribbean and the Philippines, to agitate forcefully for effective compensation for what is essentially a subsidy to Western nations.
Such funds could be used to help build a better domestic healthcare system while encouraging Western nations to cover their own shortages internally.
But can we work together?
TNT Global Issues