Code of Practice for international recruitment

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29 / 7 / 2016 Midday

The UK, through the Department of Health, is committed to ensuring ethical recruitment practices operate within the NHS through adherence to the UK Code of Practice (CoP) for international recruitment.

NHS Employers is responsible for the implementation of the UK Code of Practice for healthcare organisations involved in the international recruitment of healthcare professionals.  

We manage the list of commercial recruitment agencies that adhere to the UK Code of Practice and provide a dedicated support service to NHS organisations to help them follow the guiding principles of the code in all their recruitment activities. 

The UK Code of Practice reflects the principles and benchmarks set out in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Code of Practice, which promotes voluntary principles and practices in the ethical recruitment of international healthcare professionals within member states of the European community. 

The World Health Organisation Code of Practice

The WHO code aims to establish and promote voluntary principles and practices for the ethical international recruitment of health personnel within the member states of the European community.

Each member state has a national authority responsible for the exchange of information regarding health personnel migration and the implementation of the WHO code. NHS Employers promotes the use and adherence to the principles of this code, both to employers and agencies who supply permanent and temporary staff to the NHS, through the UK Code of Practice. 

For further information and to read the WHO Code of Practice, see the World Health Organisation’s website.

The UK Code of Practice - key points

The UK code promotes high standards of practice in the international recruitment and employment of healthcare professionals.
  • Any international recruitment of healthcare professionals should not prejudice the healthcare systems of developing countries. Healthcare professionals should not be actively recruited from developing countries, unless there is a Government-to-Government agreement to support recruitment activities. 
  • All employers are strongly advised to adhere to the code in all matters concerning the international recruitment of healthcare professionals. 
  • Any recruitment agency that wishes to supply the NHS must also need to comply with the code. 
  • The code offers principles and best practice benchmarks to be met to supply international healthcare professionals in an ethical and managed way.

Who does the code apply to?

All healthcare organisations are strongly advised to adhere to the code. The code applies to the appointment of all healthcare professionals supplied by a recruitment agency including medical staff, nurses, dentists, radiographers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and all other allied health professionals.

Guiding principles

There are seven guiding principles that underpin the code of practice these are:

  1. International recruitment is a sound and legitimate contribution to the development of the healthcare workforce. 
  2. Extensive opportunities exist for individuals in terms of training and education and the enhancement of clinical practice. 
  3. Developing countries will not be targeted for recruitment, unless there is an explicit government-to-government agreement with the UK to support recruitment activities. 
  4. International healthcare professionals will have a level of knowledge and proficiency comparable to that expected of an individual trained in the UK. 
  5. International healthcare professionals will demonstrate a level of English language proficiency consistent with safe and skilled communication with patients, clients, carers and colleagues. 
  6. International healthcare professionals legally recruited from overseas to work in the UK are protected by relevant UK employment law in the same way as all other employees. 
  7. International healthcare professionals will have equitable support and access to further education and training and continuing professional development as all other employees.
More details about the guiding principles can be found in the code of practice document, see the Department of Health's website.

Best practice benchmarks

It is expected that all organisations that comply with the code will apply these best practice benchmarks and will enter into contracts solely with recruitment agencies that have also agreed to abide by these:
  • There is no active recruitment of healthcare professionals from developing countries. 
  • All international recruitment by healthcare employers will follow good recruitment practice and demonstrate a sound ethical approach. 
  • International healthcare professionals will not be charged fees in relation to gaining employment in the UK. 
  • Appropriate information about the role applied for will be available to all international healthcare professionals. 
  • All international healthcare professionals will have the appropriate level of English language to enable them to undertake their role effectively and meet registration requirements of the appropriate regulatory body.
  • All appointed international healthcare professionals must be registered with the appropriate UK regulatory body. 
  • All international healthcare professionals required to undertake supervised practice should be fully supported in this process. 
  • All international healthcare professionals will undergo the normal health assessment prior to commencing employment. 
  • All international healthcare professionals will have appropriate checks undertaken for any criminal convictions or cautions as required by UK legislation. 
  • All international healthcare professionals offered a post will have a valid work permit before entry to the UK unless they are from the EEA area. 
  • Employers should respond appropriately to applications from international healthcare professionals who are making an individual application. 
  • All newly appointed international healthcare professionals will be offered appropriate support and induction.

More details about the best practice benchmarks can be found in the code of practice document, see the Department of Health's website.

Scottish code of practice

The code of practice for Scottish healthcare employers was officially declared in NHS Scotland by the Minister of Health and Community Care in March 2006.

NHS Employers has a partnership agreement with the Scottish Executive (SHED) to monitor arrangements for the code of practice. This will ensure a collaborative and consistent approach to monitor the performance and compliance of recruitment agencies and NHS Scotland Health Boards to the principles of the code of practice.

To obtain a copy of the Scottish Code of Practice please contact Fiona Mackenzie on 0131 2442492 or email fiona.mackenzie@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

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