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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK
Global nurse shortages on agenda
Nurses from other countries often take work in the UK
An impending global crisis in healthcare caused by shortages of doctors, nurses and midwives is to be discussed at a conference in Scotland.

The World Health Organization (WHO) event will highlight the importance of investing in healthcare staff across the globe.

A WHO report estimates that there is a current shortage of more than four million doctors, nurses and midwives.

The event is being held on Wednesday at the Glasgow Caledonian University.

The three-day conference is being held in conjunction with the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives.

In today's global labour market, the way we deal with our health services at home has an impact on health care systems across the world
Sylvia Denton
Royal College of Nursing

It will be attended by Health Minister Andy Kerr and Paul Martin, Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland.

Speakers will include Dr Manuel Dayrit, director of the department of human resources for health at the WHO and Judith Oulton of the International Council of Nurses.

Dr Dayrit will identify 57 nations across the globe where a serious shortage of health workers is impairing the provision of lifesaving interventions such as child immunisation and safe pregnancy.

Direct investment

He is expected to say that to tackle this, all countries need a well-developed plan to train the health workforce of the future and need more direct investment in the training and development of health workers now.

Prof Barbara Parfitt, dean of the university's school of nursing, midwifery and community health, said: "When people tend to think of healthcare overseas in developing nations it is equipment, drugs and doctors that are usually identified as the need.

"However, it is impossible to sustain any level of healthcare without support on the ground from nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals."

Dame Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Professional bodies can use their influence with governments in rich and poorer countries to ensure that every woman has access to a skilled health professional during pregnancy and childbirth."

Skills drain

Sylvia Denton, president of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "In today's global labour market, the way we deal with our health services at home has an impact on healthcare systems across the world."

Almost half the nurses who have registered in the UK since 1997 have come from countries such as the Philippines, Australia, India, South Africa and other sub-Saharan African countries.

Ms Denton added that Ghana had lost more than 1,000 nurses to the UK over the past eight years.

"That's a huge skills drain that the country can ill afford," she said.

"At a time when there is a worldwide shortage of nurses, we need to become more self-sufficient and train our own nurses rather than recruiting from elsewhere," she added.

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