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Make your voice heard on international recruitment

World Health Organization code aimed at tackling global shortage of healthcare workers

World Health Organization code aimed at tackling global shortage of healthcare workers

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on nurses and other stakeholders around the world to review and comment on its code on international recruitment.

The 193 WHO member countries adopted the code in 2010, one decade after the UK, a major international recruiter of nurses at the time, adopted similar measures nationally.

The WHO code is probably best known for trying to ensure that high-income countries do not denude those with low incomes of their trained healthcare professionals particularly nurses and doctors, thereby weakening their healthcare systems.

'Many governments did not know how many healthcare professionals they had'

But it was also a comprehensive attempt to deal with the underlying problems behind the seemingly intractable shortage of healthcare workers, for example by investing in better health

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World Health Organization code aimed at tackling global shortage of healthcare workers


Picture: iStock

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on nurses and other stakeholders around the world to review and comment on its code on international recruitment.

The 193 WHO member countries adopted the code in 2010, one decade after the UK, a major international recruiter of nurses at the time, adopted similar measures nationally.

The WHO code is probably best known for trying to ensure that high-income countries do not denude those with low incomes of their trained healthcare professionals particularly nurses and doctors, thereby weakening their healthcare systems.

'Many governments did not know how many healthcare professionals they had'

But it was also a comprehensive attempt to deal with the underlying problems behind the seemingly intractable shortage of healthcare workers, for example by investing in better health workforce data, planning, education and training. This was because it had become clear that many governments did not know how many healthcare professionals they had, how many they trained or what roles they carried out. 

Consistent trends

The WHO has since developed a National Health Workforce Accounts toolkit and programme to help countries provide consistent information on their healthcare workforce situation and trends.

It is now undertaking one of its periodic reviews of the code and how it has been implemented, so it is encouraging not just member governments, but also wider stakeholders, such as the RCN, to provide feedback.

This is timely given the continuing nursing workforce supply challenges in the UK.

As part of it global strategy on human resources for health, the WHO estimates a potential healthcare worker shortage of 14.5 million by 2030. It also set a target for governments to halve their reliance on foreign-trained healthcare professionals by this time.

Have your say on the specific provisions of the code by 15 July here


About the author

Susan Williams is a senior international adviser at the Royal College of Nursing

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