Lord Nigel Crisp - Champion for Global Health Workforce Alliance

Lord Nigel Crisp
WHO/The Alliance/Louis Cudjoe Tepretu

Lord Nigel Crisp has been a passionate and tireless advocate for health workforce issues since 2006. He has been acknowledged as "A Champion advocate for Global Health Workforce Alliance" by the Alliance Board Chair Sigrun Møgedal on 26 October 2009.

We met Lord Nigel Crisp in Accra, Ghana, where he presented his current initiative "Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance" at the first meeting with countries and partners on "Good Practices for Country Cooperation and Facilitation".

Lord Nigel Crisp, congratulations for being named a Champion Advocate. Please share with us why issues around shortages of health workers are important today, and why did you come to choose the issue as your mission?

When I was running the health service in the UK, I was very conscious that there were a lot of people coming from developing countries to work in the UK, which gave us a great deal of variety and experience to draw on. But when I left the health service and went to countries in Africa and South Asia, I saw that how these migrating health workers were missed in their own countries. But then when you look at the figures you discover that even if every African health worker who migrated went home, that will only deal with 10% of the problem. There is only about 180 000 health workers moved abroad, but in Africa, you need about 1.5 million more health workers. So the biggest challenge is in producing more health workers through training and education. And ever since then I have been concentrating on how we can scale up training and education for the health workforce in Africa and other developing countries.

We are here in Accra, where fourteen African countries have come together to a first consultation of its kind to exchange and build on "good practices". Countries agree that health workforce issue is an issue broader than the health sector and it requires a coordinated response involving a multitude of players. What are the key lessons that we should take away?

I am going to limit myself to three comments. The first is to congratulate GHWA for bringing people across the sectors: health, education, labour, finance, private sector and academic institutions. Everybody is going to work on this together. And this is the biggest single message. The second one is that what you do actually depends on the country. You can learn from other people but whatever you do is going to be rooted in the needs of the particular country. It is no good bringing in a lot of radiologists into a country where may be that is not the issue that they want to do. The third is that whatever you do should be transformative. It needs to be about creating workforces needed, using approaches that will work locally. We focus on this principle in setting up the Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance. Here in Accra, I hear masses of creativity all over the meeting and we need to build on this new energy to find solutions.

Lord Crisp served as a co-chair of the Alliance Task Force on scaling up training and education of health workers in 2007-2008. Appointed as a member of the group of "Champion Advocates" for the Global Health Workforce Alliance, Lord Nigel Crisp is an Independent Member of the House of Lords, the United Kingdom. Alliance "Champions" are prominent figures within the health and development community, who can influence political agenda at the decision-making level in global, regional and country levels.

A Cambridge philosophy graduate, Lord Crisp worked in community development and industry before joining the National Health Service (NHS) in 1986. He worked in mental health and acute services and was the Chief Executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust, one of the UK’s leading academic medical centers.

Among many of his international and domestic health initiatives, Lord Crisp chairs Sightsavers International, a charity working to prevent avoidable blindness in developing countries. Lord Crisp is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge Massachusetts and an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. From 2000 to 2006, Lord Crisp was the Chief Executive of the NHS - National Health Service in the UK, and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health.