Presentation at the NHS Global Health Volunteering Group Meeting: “The Value of International Volunteering and Placements to the NHS”

The Office of Health Economics has recently completed a research project funded by the NHS Global Health ExchangeHealth Education England (HEE). The primary aim of the project was to quantify the benefits of international placements and volunteering to the NHS. Dr Bernarda Zamora presented the research findings at the NHS Global Health Volunteering Group meeting held in London on 4th September 2017 (access the slides here).

Several models in the existing literature could be used to measure the monetary value of the benefits from healthcare volunteering. However, there is limited evidence about how to quantify the values that returned international healthcare volunteers bring back to their country of residence.

This project aims to fill this gap in the literature by applying a novel approach to: (1) identify the various benefits to the NHS from returned international healthcare volunteers; and (2) quantify those benefits in monetary terms. 

Benefits to the NHS from the returned international healthcare volunteers are classified into three areas according to the MILES (Macroeconomic conditions, Investment climate and infrastructure, Labour market regulations and institutions, Education and skill development, and Social protection) framework. The economic value for the NHS from international volunteering is mainly derived from diffusion of innovation in management and service delivery. The private value for the volunteers comes from increased productivity as a result of improvements in their skills. This project applied productivity indices to measure the effects of skill improvement on the NHS labour force.

The research presented an example using data from the Health Partnership Scheme (HPS). Between 2011 and 2016, 1,700 volunteers joined the scheme. The main assumption is that those volunteers are comparable with NHS staff, and some of the volunteers develop their skills during the placement period and return to their previous health professional category after the placement.

The results suggest that international volunteering generates average productivity gains ranging from 5% to 15% if the volunteers are in the ‘doctors’ category; lower gains would be obtained for staff in lower salary bands. According to the baseline earnings of these volunteers, the total value of international volunteering from this programme to the NHS is in the range of £2.7m to £8.1m.

The annual budget of the HPS, around £5m, could exceed our estimation of the annual benefit to the NHS. However, an important objective of the HPS is to assist the development of the host country. It is expected that an important part of the value of international volunteering is captured by the host country via the economic value generated from services directly delivered by international volunteers.

This project is funded by the NHS Global Health Exchange – Health Education England. Views expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the funder.

For more details please contact Dr Bernarda Zamora.

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