West ‘has drained ebola-hit countries of medical staff’ – Unethical recruitment

Hannah Devlin and Kat Day report in The Times 20th October 2014: West ‘has drained ebola-hit countries of medical staff’ – Unethical recruitment because of capacity rationing at UK Medical Schools

Western countries have undermined the fight against ebola by recruiting doctors and nurses from west Africa, leaving some areas with inadequate health expertise, charities have warned.

The NHS employs 679 health professionals from Sierra Leone, and many more are believed to work in private practice and in care homes. The total includes ten doctors, almost a tenth of the number working for Sierra Leone’s fragile health service.

Martin Drewry, director of the charity Health Poverty Action (HPA), said that by employing foreign health workers Britain and other western countries had “without a doubt” contributed to the vulnerability of west African nations to infectious disease.

Peter Brookes cartoon

“It’s not necessarily wrong for individuals to migrate, but it is wrong that the net consequence is that our health service is being subsidised by Sierra Leone,” he said.

Sierra Leone has one health worker for every 5,260 people, compared with a ratio of one to 77 in the UK. World Health Organisation figures suggest that there are about 120 doctors working within the Sierra Leone health service for a population of more than six million. Before the current ebola crisis, the country had just 327 hospital beds.

“The main thing that would have made it easier to control would have been a well-organised health system,” said Mr Drewry. “These countries are completely ill-equipped.”…

…NHS hospitals employ 28 health workers from Liberia and seven from Guinea, while huge numbers migrate to other western nations. The US employs about 60 Liberian doctors — two thirds of the number working in their country of origin — and many more nurses and health support workers.

Although the NHS stopped “actively recruiting” in developing countries in 2001, an inquiry last month by the international development select committee found that migration to the UK continued to be at the expense of health services in those nations.

Clive Ingleby, a global health adviser at the international development charity VSO, said:“[We] see the impact on health systems already struggling with severe staff shortages. The current situation is not sustainable.”

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About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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