Migration motives and integration of international human resources of health in the United Kingdom: Systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative studies using framework analysis

Latha S. Davda*, Jennifer E. Gallagher, David R. Radford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The aim of this review was to examine the migration motives, the barriers to and facilitators of integration of international dental graduates, compared with nurses and doctors in the United Kingdom. Methods: Electronic databases Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, Web of Knowledge and OECD publications were systematically searched for English language publications from January 2000 to January 2017. A total of 31 qualitative studies were selected and quality appraised and meta-synthesis of the qualitative data was carried out using framework synthesis. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were applied to present the findings. Results: There were no studies on migration motives and one study on integration experiences of international dentists in the UK. The nursing literature had the highest volume and quality of evidence on nursing workforce, whilst there was limited literature on international doctors in the UK. Migration of health professionals to the UK is determined by personal and professional factors, together with source country-specific and UK drivers. Active recruitment, post graduate training and financial gain act as strong common macro, meso and micro drivers that perpetuate migration into the UK, but the extent to which each of these drivers influence nurses' and doctors' migration is different. Integration experiences for international nurses and doctors differed based on their source country experiences and the work environment they entered. Nurses reported a wider knowledge and skills gap, more multi-level discrimination and less career progression compared to the doctors. The migrants' integration experiences depend on their cultural awareness, discrimination exposure, English language and communication skills, social and professional support networks, social integration and personal attributes. Conclusion: Migration of international health professionals is motivated by macro, meso and micro drivers at the international, national, professional and personal levels. The UK has strong common macro pull factors which attract nurses, doctors and dentists and may impact on the effectiveness of policies to restrict their migration. The integration experiences of nurses and doctors differ and further research is required to understand the integration experiences of dentists, in order to retain these professionals by tailoring policies to each of these professions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalHuman Resources For Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2018


  • Integration barriers and facilitators
  • International dental graduates
  • International medical graduates
  • Internationally trained nurses
  • Migration motives


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