Challenges facing the European Health Workforce

There can be no healthcare system without the right number of workers equipped with the right skills. Health workforce planning is necessary for the proper management of a country’s healthcare system. However, many countries are facing difficulties in establishing a framework enabling them to gather relevant information, to integrate this data into a forecasting model and to have the necessary political debates in order to adopt the necessary measures to improve the sustainability of their healthcare systems (e.g. education and training, recruitment and retention strategies, continuous professional development).


Measures are needed in all Member States. Central and East European Member States face the migration of young health professionals, while other Member States face regional imbalances with a lack of health workers in rural and remote areas, skills mismatches, an ageing workforce with insufficient new recruits and a dependency on health professionals from other countries. Member States recognise benefits of European collaboration to tackle these challenges, sharing each other’s expertise and knowledge. The European Commission is fostering this EU cooperation through its Action Plan for the EU health workforce supported by a number of studies and projects.


What is the Joint Action?

The Joint Action Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting, coordinated by Belgium and funded by the third EU Health Programme, brings together knowledge and expertise from all over Europe (main partner of the project, 30 associated and 62 collaborative partners from 28 countries). This group of experts has produced Handbooks and Guidelines, describing the most advanced planning methodologies of 7 countries. These are now being pilot-tested by health workforce planners in Italy and Portugal with a feasibility study running in Germany.


The Joint Action provides insights to an analysis on future skills and competences in the health sector to feed into the labour market intelligence needed in Member States to define skill needs in their health workforce education and training policies.


By 2016, the Joint Action will put forward a set of recommendations asking for sustained effort and practical proposals. Thanks to the Health Programme funding, the support of the European Commission and to the strong investment of the many countries, professional organisations and other stakeholders, a new dialogue has been made possible for identifying solutions to today’s health workforce challenges, crucial for the sustainability of Europe’s health systems.