The NHS should not poach doctors and nurses from poorer countries which need them in a bid to plug its own staffing gaps, experts have warned.
The Tropical Health and Education Trust said bids to recruit medical staff overseas and lure them to the UK could put the health of developing countries at risk.
Its comments come after the British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the country needs ‘another Windrush’ to boost staff numbers.
But the Government – and others around the world – should focus more on training its own people to run hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, THET said, as it claimed ‘there are no winners’ if medics keep switching countries.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month said a ‘new Windrush Generation’ was needed to help plug staffing gaps in the NHS, which is short of around 100,000 health workers
In a report published today THET said that while the NHS was undeniably short on staff, its problems are ‘dwarfed’ by the rest of the world.
The health service in the UK needs an extra 100,000 workers, according to think-tank the King’s Fund – a figure which could rise to 350,000 by 2030.
But south-east Asia needs an extra seven million and Africa a further four million medical professionals, THET’s report said.
It added the NHS must change the way it works to avoid being accused of ‘poaching’ health workers from poorer countries which cannot afford to lose their skills.
And the UK could suffer, too, if it encourages a culture of people leaving to work elsewhere as EU nurses are quitting the country and doctors moving to Australia for higher pay and smaller workloads.
The report said: ‘The UK is no longer (if it ever was) the most desirable destination for health workers.
‘The UK therefore has every reason to be one of the first countries to recognise that there are no winners in this escalation of international recruitment.’
It said ‘less competition’ and working together to increase funding to train healthcare workers was the solution.
And the experts behind the paper even went as far to say recruitment agencies which take staff from low-income countries should be banned from working with the NHS.
WHAT WAS THE WINDRUSH GENERATION?
The Windrush Generation was the name given to around half a million people who were brought to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
The UK Government invited the migrants to move across the Atlantic to help rebuild the country after the devastation of the Second World War.
Hundreds of thousands of people and their families – among them nurses brought to work for the NHS – were transported to Britain on boats.
The first of those ships was called the Empire Windrush and gave the generation its name when it arrived in June 1948.
In 1971 people who had come under the migration scheme, which had advertised jobs to them and encouraged them to move here, were told they could stay permanently.
However, the UK Government did not keep accurate records of who had stayed and, in 2012 the law required changed to require them to have official documentation to access things like free healthcare or benefits.
Some people who couldn’t produce these documents – among them residents who had lived here for decades but travelled on their parents’ passports when they were children – were taken to immigration detention centres or deported back to the Caribbean.
This caused a scandal in 2018 which led to the resignation of then-Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.
‘The UK is also increasingly open to criticism for the impact its recruitment is having on low and middle-income countries,’ it continued, ‘as we know from our interactions with Ministries of Health in Africa.
‘Not only do we risk exacerbating inequality and poor health outcomes in LMICs, we risk damaging our reputation as a country that is quite rightly praised for the generosity of the support it provides…
‘It is vital that we position ourselves as a trusted partner to these national governments.’
The report comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month called for another mass immigration of nurses like the one after the Second World War.
The Windrush Generation was the name given to hundreds of thousands of people who were brought over to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
Among these were nurses and their families who were invited to the UK to work for the NHS and help rebuild the country after a devastating war.
Speaking at an NHS conference in June, Mr Hancock said: ‘We must never forget the enormous contribution that people born beyond these shores have made to one of this nation’s greatest institutions,’ the Nursing Times reported.
‘The people plan [the document launched at the conference] spells out how we need a new Windrush Generation for the NHS.
‘A recruitment drive to attract the brightest and best doctors, nurses, and clinical staff from overseas.’
Among the recommendations in THET’s were that all countries should put at least 15 per cent of their budgets towards healthcare.
And the UK should invest more money in training for staff who come here and those who leave, by promoting ‘partnerships defined by mutual benefit’ between itself and the low and middle-income nations.
The report was written with the help of a steering group containing members of the NHS, the World Health Organization, the Royal College of Midwives, Salford University and health systems in Uganda and Tanzania.