IFGH 2012: WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel- Implications for Ireland

January 31, 2012

Authors:Brugha R.

Author Affiliations:Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Option 2– lessons from the field; project and programme evaluations; and syntheses or analyses Presented as – Oral Presentation


Over half of the doctors from 11 of the poorest Caribbean and African countries are practicing in OECD (high income) countries. 75% of doctors and 79% of nurses practicing in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries of the Middle East are expatriates. In 2008, Ireland – at 47% – had twice the proportion of registered foreign trained nurses to the OECD country ranked second, and by 2011 may also rank first for foreign-trained doctors.

Global Code development:

The Global Code was drafted and negotiated by WHO, 2007-10, supported by the Global Policy Advisory Council (on which the author served). The World Health Assembly adopted the Code in 2010. It is a voluntary instrument that articulates global ethical norms – principles and practices – around the international recruitment and migration of health workers. While non-binding, it includes strong reporting and compliance mechanisms

Issues facing Ireland:

Its requirements on WHO member countries, which have short and medium term implications for Ireland, include: ethical international recruitment; health workforce development and health systems sustainability; fair treatment of migrant health personnel; international cooperation and support to developing countries; and data gathering and Information exchange.

Ireland, because of its disproportionate reliance on passively and actively recruited non-EU trained nurses and doctors, has ethical responsibilities both to its foreign health workers and their countries. In the long-run, it will be Ireland’s success or not in developing and retaining its domestic health workforce that will determine its compliance.

Next steps:

Ireland’s imminent Global Code compliance responsibilities are manageable, with the support of Irish Global Health researchers working in partnership with the Department of Health, Irish Medical Council, Irish Nursing Board and the HSE. These are to monitor and report – to the WHO Secretariat in 2012 and World Health Assembly in 2013 – trends in registered doctors and nurses by country of qualification.



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