Revised Code of Practice for ethical international recruitment

DHSC has revised its Code of Practice for the international recruitment of health and social care staff in England.

25 February 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care has revised its Code of Practice for the international recruitment of health and social care staff in England.

The new Code, published today, is based on the principles set out in the World Health Organisation’s (WHOs) global code of practice which will ensure effective, fair and ethical treatment of workers which should be embedded across every part of the health and social care systems.

The Code sets out responsibilities for recruiters, employers and the government on how to maintain ethical recruitment on an ongoing basis.

Key points of the revised Code of Practice

  • The Code provides safeguards against active recruitment from 47 countries on the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List 2020, opposed to the 152 countries previously featured.
  • The scope of the Code has been broadened to include the social care sector.
  • The Code is UK wide (previously just England and Scotland) with each devolved administration holding its own version.
  • UK recruiters are not permitted to actively recruit (ie conduct a recruitment campaign) from countries on the list unless there is a government-to-government agreement in place for managed recruitment.
  • There is now an increased focus on monitoring recruitment activity, particularly on workforce flows from middle income countries and fragile and conflict-affected states.
  • The Code supports international health worker mobility and individuals from countries on the list can apply to and secure posts directly, however, agency support for the remainder of the recruitment process must only be enlisted once an offer of employment has been made.

NHS Employers will continue to manage and maintain the list of agencies that adhere to the Code. This includes processing applications, monitoring adherence through spot checks and regular report to the Department of Health and Social Care. We are also responsible for conducting investigations if a breach in the Code is suspected.

NHS Employers will be shortly contacting all agencies currently signed up to the old Code to sign up to the revised Code.

Actions for employers

  • Read the updated Code and become familiar with the revised guiding principles, best practice benchmarks, and the list of countries.
  • Watch our recording where we discuss the implications and management of the revised Code with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement.
  • Ensure you are working with agencies on the approved list and they adhere to the guiding principles.
  • Get in touch with NHS Employers at if you suspect any breaches of the Code.

For more information, please visit our updated Code of Practice webpages, FAQs and our International Recruitment Toolkit.