Brussels, 15 December 2008
The European Commission adopted a green paper on the EU workforce for health. This marks the beginning of a consultation period which aims to identify common responses to the many challenges facing the health workforce in Europe. In an ageing Europe, with growing healthcare costs and rising expectations from both citizens and patients, a high quality health workforce is crucial for successful health systems. The health workforce plays an important role in the EU economy accounting for about 10% of all jobs. In addition, 70% of EU healthcare budgets are allocated to salaries and employment related issues.
"We need to prepare for the health and social care challenges of the future. We must ensure that we have a sustainable and high-quality health workforce of sufficient capacity and with the right skills to achieve better healthcare for all in Europe." said Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou.
There are serious challenges facing the health workforce in the EU today and many of these problems are common to all Member States. The ageing population is changing the pattern of disease and placing new and increasing demands on healthcare workers. It also means that the health workforce is itself an ageing one and there are insufficient new recruits to replace those that are retiring or leaving the EU. Migration of health professionals into and out of the EU and mobility within the EU also has impacts on the supply and distribution of health workers.
The aim of the green paper is to launch a debate on how best to tackle the challenges facing the health workforce in Europe and to engage stakeholders in discussion. The green paper describes the 'workforce for health' as all people engaged in the planning and delivery of health services including health promotion.
Important issues raised in the green paper include investing in training and developing robust human resource strategies to improve recruitment and retention. One such area is, for example, improving the status and participation of women in the health workforce. The green paper also raises the importance of balancing how we address shortages within the EU with broader global healthcare considerations.
A stakeholder conference; 'Promoting a Sustainable Workforce for Health in Europe' took place last week in Brussels. This provided an opportunity for interactive discussion with stakeholders and health planners.
The need for this green paper emerged from the work carried out by the High Level Group on Health Services and Medical care (2004-2006) and its work developing indicators to assess the impact of EU enlargement on the movement of doctors and nurses. During that period Member States indicated an interest in a broader discussion on planning for the future health and care workforce.
The green paper on the European Workforce for Health is available on:
For more information on the stakeholder conference Promoting a Sustainable Workforce for Health in Europe