Global Citizenship report

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is calling on the Scottish Government to recognise the benefits of international volunteering opportunities for all health service workers in Scotland.

This follows the launch of a report today (Wednesday 17 May) by the College, which sets out key recommendations for how the Scottish health service can deliver on the Government’s commitment to global citizenship.

The recommendations build on the Scottish Government’s own international development strategy and call for a strategic approach to international volunteering by Scottish health service staff and the creation of a Scottish Centre for Global Health. The centre would be responsible for the coordination, organisation and enhancement of existing international health volunteering currently undertaken by NHS staff at individual health board level in Scotland. 

The report was delivered through extensive consultation with all 22 NHS health boards in Scotland and involved the input of more than 400 health service workers. Core conclusions outline the widespread benefits of volunteering to patients, individual volunteers, NHS Scotland and to Scotland in its ambitions to establish valuable partnerships for development around the world. 

With England and Wales having already laid out their visions to ensure global health engagement, the Royal College is seeking the support of the Scottish Government to formalise the process to support all health service workers looking to undertake international volunteering opportunities. 

International Development Minister, Alasdair Allan, said: "International development is a key part of Scotland’s global contribution within the international community. The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland welcomes this report and will work closely to carefully consider and respond to its recommendations.

"We recognise the benefits of global citizenship and international volunteering for the NHS. That is why we will work closely with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow towards a possible pilot of a Scottish Centre for Global Health."

Mike McKirdy, Director of Global Health at the Royal College said “We welcome the minister’s announcement today and look forward to working with the Scottish Government on making this international volunteering strategy and Scottish Centre for Global Health a reality.

“Many health service workers in Scotland already take part in international volunteering, but NHS support for this activity is variable.  It is only right that Scotland has its own international volunteering strategy and the Global Health Centre to pull all of this activity together. 

“Scotland’s culture of global citizenship reflects the heritage and values of our country. We are delighted that the Scottish Government will work with the Royal College to grasp this opportunity to initiate and support international health partnerships with less developed economies, which will offer substantial benefits to our health service workers, services and our nation.

"We recognise that NHS service commitments are the main priority, but international volunteering can result in many benefits to patients in Scotland. Staff who have volunteered overseas will have knowledge and skills that are of great importance to Scottish patients. Disease does not recognise borders. 

“The NHS also benefits from improved staff capacity and morale and there is evidence that recruitment and retention can be improved by good international volunteering policies. Volunteering develops professional and leadership skills and gives volunteers a new enthusiasm for their current roles within the NHS.  This new formal strategy will help open up these benefits to many more health service workers in Scotland. 

“The establishment of a Scottish Centre for Global Health would enable NHS Scotland to support global health at a national level and free up work already done at a local level by many health boards.”

To access the report and supporting video case studies visit:

An infographic summarising the benefits of international volunteering to individuals and the Scottish NHS is available to download and share below.  Join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ScottishGlobalhealth

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