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UK Global Health Policies and Guidance




Guidance on NHS Involvement in International Development

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Government Policies 

Development aid has been provided by the UK Government for many years both in the form of grants and the provision of technical support. This has largely been managed through the Department for International Development.

Since the year 2000 the Millenium Declaration of the United Nations has provided an important policy backdrop on government thinking and led to current strategy set out in its publication "Health is Global".


The UN Millenium Summit 

Following the Millenium Summit in 2000 when the UK was signatory to the Millenium Declaration, there was a significant increase in attention given by the government to the issue of overseas aid. In 2005, the UK hosted a summit of the G8 countries at Gleneagles where a committment was made by G8 countries to provide $50 billion per year in Overseas Development Aid to Africa by 2010.

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Crisp Report 

Following this the Prime Minister and the Secretaries of State for Health and International Development invited Lord Crisp to look at how UK experience and expertise in health could be used to best effect to help improve health in developing countries. This lead in February 2007 to the production of the Crisp Report "Global Health Partnerships: the UK Contribution to Health in Developing Countries."

The report noted the need for education and training for staff in developing countries and advocated the development of more partnerships and exchanges with NHS organisations and that the effectiveness of this could be enhanced by better co-ordination.

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Government's Response to the Crisp Report 

The Government's response to the Crisp Report, broadly supporting the proposals, came in March, 2008.

Following this changes were made in the way that funding is provided to support partnerships (now through the Tropical Health Education Trust) and work was initiated to develop of guidance for the NHS in the way it becomes involved in international development. 

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Health is Global  

Health is Global: a UK Government Strategy 2008-13  was published in September, 2008. It outlines a set of principles and actions that the UK Government will focus on over the next five years to improve health across the world, including the UK, in partnership with others.

Health is Global goes beyond what others have done by mapping where global health issues arise across a whole range of government business including security, development, trade, the way it works with international institutions and how evidence is built for more effective action. 

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Health Position Paper : Delivering Health Results

The Health Position Paper : Delivering Health Results (published August, 2013) is a DfID Policy publication on how it is improving health in the world's poorest countries. 

It explains DFID’s public health approach, which combines investments that achieve targeted results with investments that strengthen broader health systems. This approach is rooted in the UK government’s commitment to improve the health of the world’s poorest people. It puts people at the centre of what the UK does and engages communities in the promotion and protection of their own health. It also recognises the importance of the broader determinants of health, such as improved access to water and sanitation and increased girls’ education.

Working with other partners to support countries’ national plans and priorities, the UK approach delivers gains that countries can sustain and build on.

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Improving Health at Home and Abroad

"Improving Health at Home and Abroad : How overseas volunteering from the NHS benefits the UK and the world" is a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health published in July, 2013.

The report identifies ten characteristics of "volunteering for impact", which are the features of the best programmes and policies that should be spread everywhere over the next 10 years. The headings for these are : 

  • Not just permitted, but encouraged
  • A pipeline of NHS partnerships
  • All the talents involved
  • Supply matched to demand
  • Supportive employers
  • Less fragmentation
  • Global health expertise valued
  • More volunteers in scaled-up schemes
  • Better trained volunteers
  • Volunteering in UK policy

The report also recommends three key actions to improve the support given to staff, the co-ordination of programmes and the national policy environment. 

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Guidance on NHS Involvement in International Development


The NHS has not directly been involved in the past, though many individuals working in the NHS have provided support to developing countries through volunteer work. Several Hospital and Community Trusts have also established ongoing institutional links with partners in developing countries. 

Following the Millenium Declaration in 2003 two sets of national guidance have been produced for those working abroad. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has also issued a statement on volunteering.


Humanitarian and Health Work Tookit 

The Humanitarian and Health Work Toolkit was published by the Department of Health in 2003 to help strengthen the capacity and capability of the NHS in England to assist with international development and humanitarian emergencies. It raised issues surrounding the release of health professionals from the NHS to work abroad on humanitarian and health development initiatives and the benefits that such work can bring, not only to the NHS but also to patients and the professional development of the individuals themselves.

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Engaging in Global Health : the framework for voluntary engagement in global health by the UK health sector

Published in July 2014, Engaging in Global Health updates the previous government guidance referred to below. It recognises the value of volunteering, the benefits that arise both professionally and personally and also the benefits that accrue to the NHS as a consequence. 

A key set of principles underpin the framework - that activities are driven by the needs of low and middle income countries, aligned with national, district or local health plans, coordinated adequately, evidence-based and sustainable and developed in partnership.

The Framework takes forward several of the recommendations of the All Parliamentary Group on Global Health and sets out proposed standards in five main areas. 

  • Effectiveness: including the key principles for effective voluntary engagement in global health; 
  • Organisational commitment: including the vital role of UK employers and professional associations; 
  • Support for volunteers: including preparation and support for the whole volunteer journey; 
  • Health values and ethics: the importance of an ethical approach including the values that motivate those who volunteer; 
  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning: highlighting the need to assess impact, improve effectiveness and learn from best practice. 

The document provides an essential read for anyone considering or is already involved in a health partnership with a low of middle income country.

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The Framework for NHS Involvement in International Development :

 "The Framework for NHS Involvement in International Development" was published in March 2010 and is an important document for people working in the NHS. It gives both guidance and examples of good practice for working abroad and is a practical response to the recommendations in the Crisp Report about developing more partnerships and exchanges with NHS organisations. 

The Framework provides greater clarity on how NHS agencies and individuals can best maximise their potential to contribute in a sustainable and appropriate way to capacity building in developing countries.  It also highlighted issues that make it difficult for NHS staff to do voluntary work abroad, which needed further work.

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Statement of Academy of Medical Royal Colleges on Volunteering

The value of placements abroad for both clinical experience and leadership development is well recognised. Barriers to making it happen still exist, however, The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents all the Royal Colleges, including Nursine and Midwifery, has issued a Statement on Volunteering that recognises some of the barriers and encourages its members to work to overcome these. 

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The UK as a Global Centre for Health and Health Science 

The UK as a Global Centre for Health Science is a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health published in February, 2020. 

The report recognises that the UK is already a leader in health and related sciences and that it should give this role even greater priority to become a truly global centre for health and health science. 

It recommends that, in order to do this, existing international partnerships, collaborations and networks should be strengthened and further developed at both national and local level. 

See the report 

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