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Global Citizenship

in the Scottish Health Service

Global Citizenship in the Scottish Health Service is a policy report by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on the mutual benefits of international volunteering by Scotland’s health service workers.

Many Scottish health service workers currently undertake international development work on a predominantly voluntary basis. The aim of this report is to suggest how the Scottish health service can better encourage, support and coordinate this activity. An enhanced focus on coordination and quality will help harness the substantial benefits of volunteering to Scotland’s health sector workers and optimise the benifits to healthcare services in partner countries and back in the Scottish NHS.

The report addresses the common challenges of global health work, provides evidence of the mutual benefits to individuals and the Scottish NHS, and sets out eight recommendations for action. These suggested areas for action take into account the views of all Scotland’s territorial and special Health Boards, alongside many other key organisations and individuals.

This report has been prepared with the support of the Scottish Global Health Collaborative. The Collaborative’s Committee is chaired by the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood.

Download the full report: Global Citizenship in the Scottish Health Service: the value of international volunteering

Download the executive summary report

The key benefits of international volunteering to individual health workers and to NHSScotland have been summarised in two infographics that are available to download and share below.

As evidence of the benefits and learning opportunities of global health work, the report includes case studies of health workers from across Scotland, who have undertaken international volunteering.


Scotland’s health sector workers currently invest significant time and energy in global health work, and this is of established mutual benefit. We believe that maximal mutual benefit from global health partnerships can only be realised with a system-wide commitment to global citizenship, based on an agreed strategic approach.

Having taken account of the evidence reviewed, and our stakeholder views, we recommend that action is required in the following areas:

  1. Developing a strategic approach: NHSScotland should consider articulating a strategic approach to global health engagement which embraces global citizenship in the Scottish health service.
  2. Professionalising coordination and support: The Scottish Government should consider professionalising and resourcing coordination and support of global health work at a national level.
  3. Maximising benefit: NHSScotland should consider exploring how the potential personal and professional benefits of global health work could best be maximised in the Scottish health service.
  4. Ensuring effectiveness: NHSScotland should support global health work which is needs-led and follows principles of effective partnership working.
  5. Valuing collaboration: NHSScotland should consider committing to collaborative engagement and advocacy on global health issues.
  6. Expressing local commitment: NHSScotland should consider asking all Health Boards to articulate a focused organisational commitment to global citizenship.
  7. Defining support mechanisms: NHSScotland, in partnership with Health Boards, should consider defining support mechanisms for international volunteering.
  8. Setting expectations: NHSScotland should consider articulating its expectations of Scottish health service workers when engaging in global health work.

Report background

In October 2015 the College became a founding member of the Scottish Global Health Collaborative, an interest group established to work with the Scottish Government to promote effective and coordinated health sector involvement in global health.

The Collaborative, which is chaired by the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, asked the College to produce a report which would:

  • define and describe current international volunteering by Scottish health workers
  • evaluate the benefits and challenges of international volunteering to the Scottish NHS
  • appraise the current approach by NHSScotland to international volunteering by its staff
  • suggest what actions would deliver improved benefit from global health work to Scottish health workers and the Scottish health system, and improved benefit to partners abroad

The report was led and authored by Mr Stuart Fergusson, Scottish Clinical Leadership Fellow with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and Mr Mike McKirdy, College Director of Global Health.

Global Citizenship in the Scottish Health Service: the value of international volunteering was published in May 2017.

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