Europe Fedcar World

New milestones for a future EU health workforce strategy

2 miles-stones & 1 requirement have been set by the Belgian presidency of the EU in March 2024:

1° A conference about the future of the EU Health Union took place in Brussels on 26–27 March.

The Belgian EU presidency worked to lay a foundation for a future EU health workforce strategy. 

A (non-public) workshop involving politicians, stakeholders, and health experts discussed “what we could do to set up a better policy approach at the EU level for the health workforce”.

During that workshop Henning EhrensteinHead of Unit, DG Grow, European Commission, raised the need to agree on urgent need to address health workforce shortages.

A general outcome of the discussion can be -at that stage – summarized as follows :

Health workforce shortages and mismatches in skills and skill mixes currently exist in all countries. During the conference, calls for a Health Workforce Strategy at European level were voiced. Such a strategy would need to be linked to health systems transformation and improvement of its resilience. It should encompass

  • planning,
  • recruitment,
  • training,
  • working conditions
  • and professional development”

During the discussions between health ministers was also speculated the possibility to track the professionals’ mobility and/or to study more about the reasons for this mobility.

All of this will inform the discussion at an informal meeting of health ministers on 23-24 April and, if the Belgian presidency succeeds, result in conclusions by the EU health ministers at a formal meeting (EPSCO) on 21 June.

“Just like we have an EU beating cancer plan, where in fact a lot of the competencies are at national level, we would like to have a [similar] approach at the European level for health workforce,”  said Pedro Facon, responsible for health workforce in the Belgian presidency (source : Euractiv)

2° An in-depth analysis of the EU-level regulatory framework affecting the EU countries’ health workforce should also be undertaken.

That includes the directives on professional qualifications (in addition to the recommendations from the EU Court of Auditors to be published in Spring), proportionality, cross-border healthcare, and e-commerce.

“We would like to do an evaluation of what their impact is – both positive and negative on the challenges we see at national level,” Facon explained, calling this deeper analysis into the regulatory framework and policy instruments “an important outcome of the Belgian presidency.” said Pedro Facon, responsible for health workforce in the Belgian presidency (source : Euractiv).

This objective was recalled in the final press release stating that the future strategy on the health workforce could also consist in “an evaluation of the impact of existing EU legal frameworks on national health workforce strategies“.

3° What role for associations of professionals and regulators?

“I can take the remark that we need to step up our actions and that we need to continue to invest in the health workforce. We should do that. (…) . But on the other hand, I also ask for a positive and open for reform mentality on the side of the professional associations, because we need their support to make some shifts in the organisation models.”