Migration of health workers: the UK perspective to 2006
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, case study
This health working paper, authored by James Buchan, Susanna Baldwin, and Miranda Munro, describes the background of the large inflow of foreign health workers to the UK in the period 1995-2005, and provides recommendations based on the experience of this case study.
Health workforce shortages present in the UK in the early 1990s were largely addressed to recruitment of foreign medical personnel. The NHS international recruitment was underpinned by a Code of Practice. An analysis of the background, processes and implications of serves as a basis for a number of recommendations:
- Migration should only be examined within the overall workforce planning mechanism in use at national level.
- Migration should not be used in isolation, or regarded as a cheap option, with “expendable” migrant health professionals.
- The role of recruitment agencies should be monitored or regulated.
- Bilateral agreements may be an effective way of managing the migration process between a source and destination country.
- A country level code, in a country where most employers and recruitment agencies are bound by the code, can be of some effect in managing the process of recruitment in an “ethical” and efficient way.
- There needs to be more effective monitoring of flows of health workers if a multinational code is to be implemented with any effect.
- In relation to active international recruitment, the recent evidence from England would suggest it can be an effective mechanism for rapidly scaling up the workforce- but that the very rapid pace requires careful monitoring if it is not to overshoot any planned targets for growth.
- Active international recruitment must also be carefully integrated within the overall workforce planning approach, so as to be fully effective.