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Academy wants to encourage doctors to volunteer overseas

Academy issues statement on volunteering opportunities in global health

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges wants to encourage more health professionals to participate in voluntary work in global health.

In a statement, the Academy says that healthcare in the UK is widening its focus from local to global health related challenges and that 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.

“It is critical that UK based healthcare professionals take advantage of opportunities to engage in global health,” the statement says.

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 continued during our careers.”

However, the Academy has identified six challenges that healthcare professionals face when it comes to volunteering: getting time out from training and/or employment; obtaining formal recognition of volunteering for professional development; the fragmented environment of 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.
Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers organisation said: “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.”

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."

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