Intended for healthcare professionals

News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

BMA calls on G8 governments to address “brain drain”

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7506.1466 (Published 23 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1466
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

    The BMA and the Royal College of Nursing are calling on the leaders of the eight most industrialised nations to take action to reduce the exodus of healthcare workers from developing countries, as part of what they consider an essential step in improving the health of people living there.

    The chairman of the BMA, James Johnson, and general secretary of the royal college, Beverly Malone, warned, in letters sent last week to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, that the migration of healthcare workers from developing nations had led to serious shortages of staff in these countries, hampering efforts to improve health. They asked that the issue be considered at the G8 summit next month, with the aim of introducing measures to help developed countries work towards self sufficiency in their healthcare workforces.

    The letter to Tony Blair said, “The lack of healthcare workers in developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, is an emergency that demands urgent action.” The World Health Organization has estimated that a million more healthcare workers are needed in sub-Saharan African countries if they are to meet basic health goals such as reducing childhood and maternal mortality. The letter continued: “We recognise that this is a complex problem, but it is also one that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The UK government has led the way in establishing a code of good practice for ethical recruitment. It is now essential that other developed countries, such as the USA, make a similar commitment to address the issue.”

    The letters were accompanied by a statement of principles agreed by the BMA, the royal college, and international medical associations at a recent conference calling on all governments to sign up to ethical recruitment policies (such as the Commonwealth code of practice for the international recruitment of health workers) to end the reliance on staff from the developing world. For example, recent figures for 2004 showed that 293 Ghanaian trained doctors were on the UK General Medical Council register and 1021 Ghanaian nurses were on the nursing register, even though Ghana is one of the countries with the greatest loss of health professionals.

    Kate Adams, deputy chairwoman of the BMA's international committee, said, “We would like a commitment from Western countries to look at ways they can support and build health systems in some of the poorest countries in the world. Many developing countries are currently subsidising our own systems by providing qualified healthcare professionals.”

    She said it was essential to help all countries develop their healthcare systems, improve workforce planning, and improve working conditions for health professionals.

    The letters are at www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/content/skillsdrainblair and www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/content/skillsdrainbrown and the statement of principles is at www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/skillsdrain

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