Briefing for parliamentary debate: Scotland's International Development Strategy (11/01/2017)
International Development and Health
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow welcomes the Scottish Government's new International Development Strategy. Scotland is a globally prominent innovator in healthcare development and delivery and has been a major contributor to health-related international development work in low and middle income countries. The Scottish health service accounts for approximately 40% of Scottish Government expenditure, with a 2015 budget of £12.2 billion. Since the Scottish Executive of 2005 launched its first International Development Strategy, health projects have been prominent receivers of Scottish Government funding, with over £16 million allocated to health projects in the Malawi Development Programme alone from 2005-2015.
The UK Government has formally 'reserved' responsibility for international development but only has direct jurisdiction over the English NHS. UK Government policy on global health has been focused on the English NHS. The Scottish Government does not have any health-focused policy in relation to international development, except for a commitment to ethical recruitment of international healthcare workers and a 2006 Health Department Letter which launched the 2-year pilot of a volunteering scheme (run by Voluntary Services Overseas, VSO) which was not continued.
However, there is precedent for devolved administrations developing individualised policy in international health engagement. The Welsh Government published their policy paper "Health within and beyond Welsh border: an enabling framework for international health engagement" in 2012 with intentions including "NHS Wales staff will be empowered to by global citizens" and "Wales will have a higher international profile that promotes and reflects our expertise and values". The Welsh Government funds an International Health Coordination Centre and has developed a Charter for International Health Partnerships which all Welsh health boards publicly committed to in 2014.
In October 2015 the Scottish Government set up an interest group, the Scottish Global Health Collaborative, incorporating representation from the NHS, academic and charitable organisations, with the intention of promoting effective and coordinated health sector involvement in global health. The collaborative is currently supporting work by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow who are due to report later this year on the well-established evidence for the benefits of international volunteering to both partner countries and the Scottish NHS itself. This report will outline how the Scottish health service might plan more strategic involvement in global health matters.
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow would welcome parliamentary discussion on the role that Scottish healthcare workers could play in co-development of healthcare systems in the partner countries outlined in the strategy, and beyond. We strongly believe that volunteering to work in these countries should be supported and indeed encouraged by the Scottish NHS.
Prepared by Mr Stuart Fergusson and Mr Mike McKirdy
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow