The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (the Academy) today formally publishes a statement encouraging support for the engagement of health professionals in voluntary work. Healthcare in the UK is widening its focus from local to global health related challenges. This means that doctors need to be more aware of health issues from a broader perspective and also in delivering that care in low resource environments.
Professionals who volunteer are able to expand their knowledge of global health as well as develop their own skills, to benefit not only the NHS but also improving health and healthcare in developing countries.
The Academy has identified six challenges that face healthcare professionals when it comes to volunteering:
- Granting of time out from training and/or employment for volunteers
- Formal recognition of volunteering for professional development
- A fragmented environment for volunteering activities
- Monitoring, evaluation and research of volunteering activities
- Information, training and support for volunteers
- Additional expenditures and the loss of employment entitlements for volunteers.
We therefore urge our members and others who play a role in facilitating volunteering opportunities for healthcare professionals to work together to overcome them.
The Academy is also pleased to see the interest in this area from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health and the recent Kings Fund publication Volunteering in health and care: Securing a sustainable future.
Speaking on behalf of the Academy Dr John Howard, Chair of the Academy International Forum said:
“We believe that volunteering helps to both further the global health agenda and enhance the outlook and values of those that volunteer. Taking ourselves out of our own day to day environments to share with and learn from others can help to keep fresh our perspectives, and promote high quality healthcare and patient and carer experience. Volunteering helps forge relationships and establish networks with overseas colleagues, that can be continue during our careers.”
Dean Royles, Chief Executive of NHS Employers organisation said:
"We are delighted to support the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and recognise the importance of volunteering to support health improvements in developing countries. Employers in the NHS support many different projects with this aim, either corporately or by releasing individuals to volunteer. It is a testament to the NHS that even in challenging times organisations still feel able to support really worthwhile initiatives and we should commend them for that.
We know that the expertise provided by volunteers reaps health and wellbeing benefits in the communities where the projects are undertaken and also provides those staff who have volunteered with different skills and insights that benefit them and their employers for years to come.”
The Department of Health and Department for International Development commented:
“The Department of Health and Department for International Development welcome the Academy’s statement on Volunteering and the work of the Academy’s International Forum in this area. Volunteers can get significant benefits from working abroad, enhancing their skills and knowledge and experience.”
Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities at the British Medical Association said:
"UK healthcare professionals can make a significant contribution to health systems globally. The BMA hopes that this joint statement helps doctors, deaneries and employers to facilitate volunteering opportunities for UK doctors."
Health Education England commented:
“Health Education England welcomes the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ statement on volunteering abroad. Volunteering is an effective route for staff to gain knowledge and skills about diseases that aren’t common in England, whilst supporting less privileged countries. By investing in our current and future workforce in this way, we can also help ‘future proof’ the NHS.”
Read the Academy Statement:
Notes to the editors
1. The Academy’s role is to promote, facilitate and where appropriate co-ordinate the work of the Medical Royal Colleges and their Faculties for the benefit of patients and healthcare. The Academy comprises the Presidents of the Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties who meet regularly to agree direction.
2. Academy International Forum – Volunteering: Organisations involved in developing the statement
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges - Policy Office
Academy International Forum
Academy International Forum - Sudan representative
British Medical Association International Committee
Department for International Development
Department of Health
Faculty of Public Health
General Medical Council
Health Protection Agency
Intercollegiate global health junior doctor working group
International Federation of Surgical Colleges
Partnerships in International Medical Education
Royal College of Anaesthetists
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Midwives
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Royal College of Physicians London
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Royal College of Radiologists
Tropical Health and Education Trust
Voluntary Service Overseas
3. All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health http://www.appg-globalhealth.org.uk