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This new introduction to the international department's work (PDF file, 3.7 MB) is designed to provide useful background on over 60 years of RCGP international work.
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UK GP trainees and newly qualified doctors interested in international health
Principles guiding decisions on work with international partners
The following principles should guide decisions and the information driving these decisions should be clearly documented and stored:
- Human rights principles are fundamental to the RCGP’s work, and from these rights are derived the principles of respect, care, dignity, fairness and equality. In our work, the RCGP maintains an unqualified commitment to human rights as set out in the current
- accepted legislation,
- treaty agreements,
- conventions and
- norms of international humanitarian and human rights.
- The RCGP values our commitment to promoting basic human rights. The General Medical Council's, good medical practice guidance are enshrined in the RCGP curriculum. It must not be diluted when collaborating, providing qualifications or training internationally. In particular, the GPs safeguarding responsibilities to vulnerable groups need to be explicitly promoted.
- Additional considerations: The decision to proceed with an opportunity to work with an external partner also needs to include consideration of other issues, such as those that may impact on population health, climate and sustainability. The probity and ethos of the prospective partner should also be considered (e.g. Anti-corruption/ ethical investments etc).
- Clarity and transparency of why, what and how. There should be clarity of purpose (commercial/philanthropic), methods and outcomes, and these should be consistent with the RCGP’s Charitable Object, as agreed by the RCGP Council and the Trustee Board.
- RCGP international projects should maintain or improve trust in the RCGP and wider profession of general practice. The value of primary care to population health is well established, and all partnerships should accord due recognition to this value and the trusting relationships on which it is based.
- There should be a risk assessment and the calculated risk of working in another country or with an external partner should be within the acceptable level (as defined by the Trustee Board). If the risk is higher, the decision on whether to work in that country should be made by Council and the Trustee Board.
- In addition the college also reserves the right to engage and operate in fragile states on the of levels of poverty and/or poor health. Where provision of support to health education and health care capacity building outweigh the risks (including reputational risks) can be achieved without undue association, with or direct support to reputationally problematic regimes. In low and middle-income countries, or in countries with weaker healthcare system and fragile or less democratic governments, health care tends to the least available and patients are in the greatest need. The focus of the RCGP’s international work has always been – and should always remain – to improve patient access to healthcare services and the standards of primary care delivery.
The College should be allowed to object to any human rights breaches that are supported by evidence in a way that is sensitive to cultural norms. It might still be able to defend its decision to carry on operating under these conditions, documenting this and assessing if it is in the interests of the greater good.
- The College should monitor conditions and behaviour of external partners. This is to ensure that its presence, inadvertently or otherwise, cannot be used to support or substantiate policies or practices detrimental to the health of individuals, communities or populations.