May the (work)force be with you!

Putting Health Workforce Planning on the agenda today, means having significant results tomorrow towards a better healthcare system. It is important to emphasize that a sustainable EU healthcare system requires immediate actions by creating and maintaining healthcare systems on a national level in each of the Member states of the EU. This is why we, as Health Workforce Planning Committee, are developing recommendations on the subjects of mobility of healthcare professionals and soft, digital and interprofessional skills of health workforce.

The debate on Health Workforce Planning touches the core principles discussed in the EU institutions. In the last decade, we saw a spread of healthcare professionals, mostly from Eastern European countries to either the West or the North. Young professionals tend to leave more often their country of origin which results in lack of local healthcare professionals in many areas. Moreover, it leads to the waste of local resources and threatens the sustainability as such. This is why the Health Workforce Planning Committee strongly believes in incentives in order to keep professionals in their country of origin. Not by means of prohibiting free mobility of people, but by making sure that professionals are stimulated to stay. With several recommendations that can be adopted at the national level in different Member states, we hope to create a stronger bond between the country of education and the return that the professional gives to his/her native country. Taking that into account, we suggest for each Member state to take their own responsibility, starting from a profound knowledge of the particular needs of the local system. We strongly believe that mobility should be tackled on national level, with supervision and leadership from the EU. Our recommendations will be general yet concrete and easily adoptable. Sounds interesting? Well, stay tuned!

Another issue that pops up in the debate on Health Workforce Planning is the education and training of healthcare professionals. The distribution of EU-citizens all over Europe is a reality that will never cease to exist. In consequence, it is of major importance that professionals obtain comparable skills in different countries. We understand that the corner stone of each curriculum is formed by the particularities of each local system. On the other hand, certain competencies are universal and should be implemented likewise in all Member states. It is our conviction that a lot of work still needs to be done in the field of soft skills, such as communication and empathy.

Furthermore, we are facing more and more digital developments and opportunities. If we want to exploit the possibilities of the digital revolution to the fullest, we need professionals that are able to handle the technologies that are ahead. We regret that the current system of healthcare education doesn’t cover above-mentioned subjects in many Member states. Instead of looking ahead and offering courses on e.g. the electronic medical record or the challenges of big data that the world of research is facing, it’s easier to teach common knowledge and not to go outside the box. But who said things should be easy in life? We believe that in fast changing times like ours, slowly adaptive education might have the side-effect of students being outdated at the day of their graduation. For that reason, we will recommend a certain fundamental blueprint that can be used by all institutes EU-wide, in order to set up high-quality education.

To conclude, the process of developing a recommendation that fits all Member states is laborious, yet rewarding, and within the next few weeks, we will refine the ideas that we have so far. At this stage, it is very inspiring to meet stakeholders, so we would like to state explicitly that we are open for suggestions of all kind. We are open to ideas, recommendations and fruitful dialogues and are doing our best to have a significant impact on the subject of Health Workforce Planning. And may, in the meanwhile, the (work)force be with you!