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Building health partnerships across the globe

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Thomas Hughes-Waage is Head of Partnership Development at NHS England, having held the same role at Health Education England since 2020, up until April 2023 when HEE was merged with NHS England. He has worked in the NHS in policy positions since 2016, prior to which he was at the Department of Health, where he rose to the position of Private Secretary to the Secretary of State.

Health Education England (HEE) was designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Human Resources for Health earlier this year; formally recognising the contribution of our work with WHO.

This builds on HEE’s strategic partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as the co-host of the NHS Consortium for Global Health and our work to ensure the NHS supports the Government’s global health and health security objectives

Workforce is one of the ‘wicked problems’ facing all health systems around the world. There is a line in the Long-Term Plan which states: “all of the solutions we need already exist in our NHS.” Sadly, the very nature of the complex workforce challenges we face is that they are not quickly soluble in a clear cut and definitive way.

Policy makers, strategists, and planners, around the world are attempting to tackle the same workforce issues we are facing in England’s NHS. How do we train and recruit the right numbers of nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals? How do we ensure they are working in the rural/remote areas we know have the greatest need? How do we attempt to future proof the workforce for the demographic and technological shifts that will take place during their 30-year career? Crucially, as we create a new NHS England, how do we ensure ‘workforce’ is not an issue addressed in isolation from service and financial planning?

The last few years have shown us that there are talented, dedicated, professionals working on the same issues the world over; each attempting to improve the health systems they work in and a growing recognition that growing and improving the workforce is not something that can be done as a siloed activity. If the solutions are not here today in our NHS, hopefully they exist somewhere globally.

Our approach to technical collaboration, capacity building, and consultancy is one of convening and facilitation. We aim to bring together NHS teams with their peers overseas to share the often common, occasionally divergent, and frequently innovative methods each has of tackling shared challenges. We know from our own experience in the NHS that innovation is spurred by facing challenges, and the lessons learned by our colleagues in low- and middle-income settings have often led to innovations which might be applicable in the NHS.

Building health workforce leadership

In 2023 HEE and WHO will co-host a series of free access seminars on workforce planning as part of Working for Health 2030. Each will highlight differing approaches to key themes from international partners. In parallel cross-system action-learning sets of up to nine colleagues in eight countries will work see if there are ideas which might be put into practice in their own systems.

Speakers at the first seminar, which focused on primary care, included colleagues from Canada, Ethiopia, Sweden, and the NHS. What emerged from the discussion is a common set of challenges facing workforce in primary care with no single ‘magic bullet’ but bundles of interconnected interventions on workforce along common themes: education and training, reward and recognition, ongoing professional support, and development; all levers at all levels.

Global engagement

Bringing HEE’s team working on public health workforce mapping to meet WHO and partners as part of the Public Health and Emergency Workforce Roadmap highlighted both how comprehensive our work on mapping cross-sectoral public health specialists was but also potential gaps in terms of non-public health specialists delivering public health. We are hopeful that piloting the WHO’s methodology as a technical exercise will not only inform their practice but inform the approach of our own work going forward.

Beyond building improving our knowledge and practice the opportunity to engage with peers overseas is something which supports staff engagement, the development of our staff, and our work to be the employer of choice.

When we evaluated the benefits of global work to our organisation several participants expressed that the job satisfaction that they experienced from taking part made them more likely to stay in their role, suggesting benefits around staff retention. “I feel like I’m contributing to society much more,” and: “It helps with getting to your desk in the morning,” also: “We’ve done some pretty incredible stuff.”

Others highlighted the benefits of sustained relationships and networks that they were able to develop through their participation: “It’s widened our networks, which has been a really positive thing.” They had been able to reference their participation in applications to join professional networks and fellowships.

Partnerships in NHS England

It has been a genuine pleasure and privilege to be part of HEE’s global health partnerships over the last four years. Acting to enable HEE - and other NHS - experts to collaborate with their peers overseas on a range of shared challenges has been hugely rewarding.

HEE’s accreditation as a WHO collaborating centre on human resources for health is testament not to the work of the global team, or the technical expertise of own staff, but the open and equitable way teams have approached working internationally

The values-based approach to global work is something we will take with us into a new NHS England to we continue our work on global health partnerships; for our technical and knowledge-based work, our work on educationally enabled migration, overseas placements for NHS staff

Thomas Hughes-Waage
Head of Partnership Development, NHS England

Thomas Hughes-Waage

Thomas Hughes-Waage is Head of Partnership Development at NHS England, having held the same role at Health Education England since 2020, up until April 2023 when HEE was merged with NHS England. He has worked in the NHS in policy positions since 2016, prior to which he was at the Department of Health, where he rose to the position of Private Secretary to the Secretary of State.

For further information please visit https://global.hee.nhs.uk/

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Upcoming Events

Pathology Horizons 2024

MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel, Bath
18-20 April, 2024

Diagnostics North East Conference 2024

The Catalyst, Newcastle upon Tyne
19 April, 2024

ECCMID 2024 - European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Fira Gran Via, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
27-30 April 2024

British Society for Microbial Technology Annual Microbiology Conference

UK Health Security Agency, Colindale, London
2 May 2024

EQA Reports: Interpreting Key Information & Troubleshooting Tips

ONLINE - Zoom
Thursday 16th May 2024

Participants’ Meeting: UK NEQAS Immunology, Immunochemistry & Allergy

Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield
24th May 2024

Access the latest issue of Pathology In Practice on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

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