I was delighted to attend the recent launch of "Global Citizenship in the Scottish Health Service", a policy report by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on the mutual benefits of international volunteering by Scotland’s health service workers. I was particularly pleased to see the support that it has received from the Scottish Government, Chief Medical Officer and Chairs and Chief Executives of the Scottish Health Boards. There were many representatives from health services, universities, third sector and the other Scottish Royal Colleges.
The report highlights that many Scottish health service workers currently undertake international development work on a predominantly voluntary basis, some of whom have partnered with us at EMMS International. The report suggests how the Scottish health service can better encourage, support and coordinate this activity. An greater focus on coordination and quality will help harness the substantial benefits of volunteering to Scotland’s health sector workers and maximise the benefits to healthcare services in partner countries and in the Scottish NHS. Its findings can equally apply to private and third sector healthcare providers across the country.
At a time when the commitment to international development continues to be criticised, it's worth remembering that international aid and development is not a one-way street. Scotland, and the rest of the UK, benefits significantly from development and partnership with other countries. The report clearly sets out a number of ways in which Scotland can, and does, benefit from healthcare staff participating in global health initiatives. It can improve the reputation of Scottish healthcare internationally, improve patient care, help staff to develop new skills and support recruitment and retention of staff. For the individuals, it can help them develop leadership and management skills, enhance their clinical skills and improve their personal resilience. The infographic below summarises the key benefits identified in the report.
The report addresses the common challenges of global health work, provides evidence of the mutual benefits to individuals and the Scottish NHS, and sets out eight recommendations for action. It's my prayer that this report will lead to an increase in Scotland's engagement in international work, for the benefit of poor and marginalised people overseas, and for the benefit of all patients in Scotland.