Migration of health professionals from one country to another, as well as within countries, is of extreme importance for the advancement of medicine. Scientific exchange, personal education, development of skills and experiencing a diversity of views and approaches are important factors to the advancement of medicine for the benefit of all patients.
Although migration is an individual right, seeking employment or establishing a medical practice in another country is highly regulated. Such regulations are driven in part by protectionist motives – political reasons related to ensuring opportunities for indigenous physicians – but also by well-founded considerations of ensuring quality of care.
As a global organization, the WMA is also concerned about attrition rates that affect many countries, especially the poor countries. Educating sufficient numbers of physicians is important, but does not resolve the problem of these same physicians leaving the country to seek better opportunities for working and living. The World Medical Association has long advocated for careful, comprehensive planning of human resources for health in order to develop and maintain the workforce necessary to serve a population’s need.
The World Medical Association is involved in several projects to develop solutions to the problem of physician migration:
The Positive Practice Environment campaign seeks to identify best practice models to build and maintain quality workplaces in health care. Read more on the PPE campaign.
The WMA supports and contributes to several ongoing EU studies working to quantify and describe the migrations streams of health professionals within and to and from the European Union. As the EU is one of the main receiving regions of physicians from other countries, solving the workforce problems within the EU may be an important step to reducing the attrition rate in poorer countries.
The WMA was involved in the drafting process of WHO global Code of practice on the international recruitment of health personnel which was adopted by the 63rd World Health Assembly in May 2010.
WHO developed the global policy recommendation on increasing access to health workers in remote and rural areas and WMA took part in the drafting process. The retention guidelines are based on three pillars: educational and regulatory incentives, monetary incentives and management, and environment and social support. Decision makers on the national and local levels and health facilities received evidence on the impact and effectiveness of various retention strategies that have been tried and tested.
World Health Professions Regulation Conference WHPCR
The WMA together with the World Health Professional Alliance and the World Confederation for Physical Therapy organised the First World Health Professions Conference on Regulation WHPCR in Geneva in May 2008. The conference explored the future of health care system regulation and the implications of migration of health professionals. Topics included: the concept of global professional, how to license and accredit migrating health professionals, and links between patient safety, competence and standards. A second conference on regulation WHPCR was organised on 18-19 February 2010 in Geneva.
WMA Current Policy & Action
- WMA resolution on the medical workforce (October 2009)
- Statement on Ethical Guidelines for the International Recruitment of Physicians
- WHO Code of practice on the international recruitment of health personnel - Comments from the World Medical Association
- Report of the First World Health Professions Conference on Regulation 2008
- World Health Professions Alliance
- Please see also the WMA page on scope of practice (1.4.2)
- Positive Practice Environments Campaign (PPE)
- Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA)
- WHO / Health Workforce