Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell yesterday announced plans for a scheme that would help UK health professionals spend time in the developing world, proposing to:
- Pay for Voluntary Services Overseas to organise year-long placements for up to 250 British health workers to work in a developing country.
- Pay towards the pension contributions of these long-term volunteers.
- Pay for THET to expand its efforts to link British healthcare institutions with those in developing countries.
- Match, pound for pound, money raised by healthcare institutions to fund international links and visits, up to a maximum of £10,000 per institution.
- Fund an electronic health exchange called “HealthBay” where requests for help from the developing world would be matched against offers from developed countries.
He asked International Development Minister Shahid Malik if the Government would follow suit:
Andrew Mitchell: Further to the question of the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), the Minister will know that many British health professionals want to make a personal contribution in poor countries but are too often discouraged from doing so because time spent abroad is not accredited and therefore adversely affects pension accrual, for example. Will the Minister look closely at the policy that my party has proposed to set up a health systems partnership fund? That would make a modest but useful contribution to helping in this area.
Shahid Malik: The hon. Gentleman may be aware that we were already looking at that issue prior to his party’s announcement. I am happy to inform him that Lord Nigel Crisp, chair of the Global Health Workforce Alliance, is looking into the issue, and that the Secretary of State has already met him.
Andrew Mitchell: The Minister will know that our proposals would enable British health professionals to spend time in developing countries helping to build sustainable health systems. The proposals have been supported by VSO and many other NGOs, including the Tropical Health and Education Trust. As the Minister’s party is clearly in the mood for nicking Conservative policies, will he make it a priority to implement as soon as possible our health systems partnership fund?
Shahid Malik: I think that I have already alluded to the fact that, regardless of whether they are ours or are borrowed from elsewhere, we will pass forward all good ideas to Lord Nigel Crisp, who will be looking into these matters. On nicking ideas, the hon. Gentleman will next be telling us that the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNI by 2013 was his party’s idea.
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