Health worker migration

A health worker in Sierra Leone

Health worker migration and health systems

Everyone in the world has an equal right to the best chance at good health. For that, we need health workers. Health workers provide a broad spectrum of care, from advice and support to lifesaving surgery – and everything between.

Migrant health workers make an enormous contribution to the UK’s National Health Service. Over 36% of Doctors in the UK received their Primary Medical Qualification outside the country. A quarter of all doctors are trained outside of Europe in countries such as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka South Africa and Sudan. [1] Over one fifth of UK nurses and midwives were born outside of the UK. [2]

Whilst British citizens benefit from the care, expertise and dedication of migrant health workers, over 50 countries, mainly in Africa and South Asia, are suffering a critical shortage of health personnel. If the situation remains as it is today, one billion people world-wide will never see a health worker.

This is one example of the global imbalances which benefit the UK at the expense of some of the poorest countries in the world. Many countries in the Global South already feel the effects of unfair policies and practices which force  them in to poverty. Now they are, in effect, also subsidising the NHS through the health workers they paid to train.

Yet rather than valuating their contribution, the British government and others often use migrants as a scapegoat for the problems of public services. Now they are even restricting access to the NHS for those who are most vulnerable.

This needs to change. The UK must recognise the contribution of migrant health workers to the NHS. Our government needs to protect the right to health of everyone in the UK without restriction, and increase its support to the health systems of other countries.

In gratitude for the contribution of migrant health workers and in solidarity with migrants throughout the UK, Health Poverty Action supports 1 Day Without Us – a National Day of Action on 20th February to celebrate the contributions of migrants.

For further information about the global shortage of health workers  and the migration of health workers read our briefing, take a look at our report, or read more here.





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