Healthcare personnel statistics - dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists

This is the stable Version.


Data extracted in September 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: October 2018.

This article presents an overview of European Union (EU) statistics on dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists. It provides information on specialist healthcare personnel, as well as data pertaining to dentistry and pharmacy graduates.

This article is one of a set of statistical articles concerning healthcare resources in the EU which forms part of an online publication on health statistics.

Infographic: Healthcare personnel in the EU, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_prs1)
Table 1: Practising dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_prs1)
Figure 1: Practising dentists, 2010 and 2015
(per 100 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_prs1)
Figure 2: Practising pharmacists, 2010 and 2015
(per 100 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_prs1)
Figure 3: Practising physiotherapists, 2010 and 2015
(per 100 0000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_prs1)
Table 2: Graduates — dentists and pharmacists, 2005, 2010 and 2015
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_grd)
Figure 4: Graduates — dentists, 2005, 2010 and 2015
(per 100 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_grd)
Figure 5: Graduates — pharmacists, 2005, 2010 and 2015
(per 100 000 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat (hlth_rs_grd)

Main statistical findings

Healthcare personnel

For dentists and pharmacists, Eurostat collects data for three concepts:

  • practising’, in other words, health care professionals providing services directly to patients;
  • professionally active’, in other words, ‘practising’ professionals plus health care professionals for whom their medical education is a prerequisite for the execution of their job;
  • licensed’, in other words, health care professionals who are registered and entitled to practise as health care professionals.

In this article preference is given to the concept of ‘practising’ health care professionals. For some EU Member States data are not available for this concept and therefore data are presented for one of the alternative concepts instead: footnotes indicate these exceptions in each table and figure.

Table 1 provides an overview for 2015 of the number of practising dentists and pharmacists as well as the number of physiotherapists. Based on the sum of available data (see Table 1 for more details of the coverage, in particular details relating to those EU Member States which publish data for professionally active or licensed to practice healthcare professionals), there were almost 300 thousand practising dentists in 24 of the EU Member States (no recent data for Ireland, Greece, Spain or Portugal), while there were over 434 thousand practising pharmacists in 25 of the EU Member States (no recent data for Bulgaria, Ireland or Lithuania) and 553 thousand physiotherapists in the EU-28. As such, the combined number of practising dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists (1.3 million) remained below the total number of practising physicians (1.8 million).

Bulgaria had the highest number of dentists per 100 000 inhabitants

Dentists (ISCO 08 code 2261) diagnose, treat and prevent diseases, injuries and abnormalities of the teeth, mouth, jaws and associated tissues. They use a broad range of specialised diagnostic, surgical and other techniques to promote and restore oral health.

On the basis of a comparison in relation to population numbers, Bulgaria recorded the highest number of dentists, at 105 per 100 000 inhabitants in 2015. This was slightly higher than in Cyprus (103) and these were the only two EU Member States where there were more than 100 practising dentists per 100 000 inhabitants; note also that there were 123 dentists licensed to practice per 100 000 inhabitants in Greece. By contrast, there were fewer than 50 practising dentists per 100 000 inhabitants in Slovakia (professionally active dentists), Malta and, most notably, Poland (33.2 per 100 000 inhabitants).

The number of practising dentists per 100 000 inhabitants remained relatively unchanged in most of the EU Member States between 2010 and 2015 (see Figure 1); there were, however, seven Member States where this ratio increased by at least 10 additional dentists per 100 000 inhabitants. The largest absolute changes were recorded in Bulgaria (with an additional 20 dentists per 100 000 inhabitants between 2010 and 2015), Romania (17) and Portugal (15; dentists licensed to practise, note also there is a break in series). The highest relative increase in the number of dentists was recorded in Romania (up 28 % between 2010 and 2015) and there were also relatively large gains in Spain (up 23 %; dentists licensed to practise) and Bulgaria (up 23 %). By contrast, there were four Member States where the number of dentists per 100 000 inhabitants fell between 2010 and 2015. The biggest reductions were recorded in Finland (-9 %; 2010-2014), Denmark (-7 %; 2010-2014) and Greece (-5 %; dentists licensed to practise), while the change in Slovakia (professionally active dentists) was relatively small (-1 %).

There were over 434 thousand pharmacists working in the EU in 2015

Pharmacists (ISCO 08 code 2262) store, preserve, compound, dispense and sell medicinal products — irrespective of where they provide these services. They may also provide advice on the proper use and adverse effects of drugs and medicines following prescriptions issued by medical doctors and other health professionals.

Malta and Belgium had the highest number of pharmacists per 100 000 inhabitants

Taking into account the size of each EU Member State in population terms, Malta recorded the highest number of practising pharmacists per 100 000 inhabitants, at 129 in 2015 (see Figure 2 for information concerning differences in data coverage for individual EU Member States). There was also a relatively high degree of accessibility to pharmacists in Belgium (121), as well as in Spain (119), Italy (115) and Ireland (111; pharmacists licensed to practise). The majority of Member States reported 60-110 pharmacists per 100 000 inhabitants, although Denmark (51; 2014 data) and the Netherlands (21) were below this range.

The number of practising pharmacists per 100 000 inhabitants increased between 2010 and 2015 at a relatively fast pace in Cyprus and Malta (note there is a break in series for both countries), followed by Spain and Romania— see Figure 2. By contrast, the number of practising pharmacists fell between 2010 and 2015 in Luxembourg and Finland (2010-2014) and was marginally lower in Sweden (also 2010-2014).

There were 553 thousand physiotherapists working in the EU in 2015

Physiotherapists (ISCO 08 code 2264) assess, plan and implement rehabilitative programs that improve or restore human motor functions, maximise movement ability, relieve pain syndromes, and treat or prevent physical challenges associated with injuries, diseases and other impairments. They apply a broad range of physical therapies and techniques such as movement, ultrasound, heating, laser and other techniques.

Finland had the highest number of physiotherapists per 100 000 inhabitants

In 2015, the relative distribution of physiotherapists across the individual EU Member States was more diverse than for dentists or pharmacists, ranging from 270 per 100 000 inhabitants in sparsely populated Finland (2014 data) down to 6 per 100 000 inhabitants in Romania.

Between 2010 and 2015, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were the only EU Member States to report a decrease in their respective number of practising physiotherapists per 100 000 inhabitants; the biggest contraction was recorded in the Netherlands (note there is a break in series) where the number of practising physiotherapists fell by 14 per 100 000 inhabitants.

Latvia and Romania both recorded relatively low numbers of physiotherapists per 100 000 inhabitants in 2015, although in both of these EU Member States the accessibility of physiotherapists almost doubled between 2010 and 2015; there was an even faster expansion in the number of physiotherapists in Cyprus (note however there is a break in series). By contrast, the number of physiotherapists per 100 000 inhabitants was already relatively high in 2010 but nevertheless grew at a relatively fast pace between 2010 and 2015 in Germany and Luxembourg.

Health graduates

Table 2 presents data on the number of dentists and pharmacists graduating in the EU Member States. In 2015, there were 13.5 thousand dentistry graduates and 24.3 thousand pharmacy graduates in the EU-28.

The EU’s most populous Member State, Germany, had the highest number of dentistry graduates (2.3 thousand) among the EU Member States in 2015, while there were also more than 1.0 thousand dentistry graduates in Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and France (2013 data). By contrast, the highest numbers of pharmacy graduates were recorded in France (3.8 thousand; 2013 data), Italy (3.7 thousand) and the United Kingdom (3.5 thousand), while Spain (2.7 thousand) also recorded more pharmacy graduates than Germany (2.0 thousand); there were also in excess of 1.0 thousand pharmacy graduates in Romania, Portugal and Poland.

Relative to the total number of inhabitants, Romania recorded the highest number of dentistry graduates in 2015, at 9.1 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants (see Figure 4 for more information on the data coverage for each EU Member State). Portugal (6.7 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants) and Lithuania (6.4 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants) also recorded relatively high ratios and all three of these Member States also reported that their number of dentistry graduates per 100 000 inhabitants rose during the period 2005-2015. The majority of Member States for which data are available had between 1.7 and 4.1 dentistry graduates per 100 000 inhabitants, although the Netherlands, Malta and Italy were below this range; note there were no graduates from degree courses in dentistry in Cyprus or Luxembourg.

Portugal recorded the highest ratio of pharmacy graduates in relation to its total population, at 12.0 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants in 2015 (see Figure 5 for more information on the data coverage for each EU Member State). This was considerably higher than in any of the other Member States, with Malta (10.2 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants), Romania (8.4 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants) and Finland (7.0 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants; 2014 data) recording the next highest ratios. By contrast, there were relatively few pharmacy graduates — 2.5 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants — in Germany, while this ratio was even lower in Denmark (2014 data) and the Netherlands (both 1.4 graduates per 100 000 inhabitants); note there were no graduates from degree courses in pharmacy in Cyprus or Luxembourg.

Data sources and availability

Key concepts

Practising dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists provide services directly to patients. Dentists and pharmacists have completed university studies in their respective domains and all three professions need to be licensed to practice. Dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists who are working in administration, research or other posts that exclude direct contact with the patients and clients are excluded from the definition of those who are practising, as are those who are unemployed, retired, or working abroad.

Data on dental and pharmacy graduates cover the number of students who have obtained a recognised qualification in dentistry or pharmacy in a given year; a university degree is generally not required to practice as a physiotherapist.

Healthcare resources

Statistics on healthcare resources (such as personnel and medical equipment) are documented in this background article which provides information on the scope of the data, its legal basis, the methodology employed, as well as related concepts and definitions.

Common definitions have been agreed between Eurostat, the OECD and the World Health Organisation (WHO) with respect to the employment of various health care professionals. Three main concepts are used to present this data; in this article preference is given to the concept of ‘practising’ dentists and pharmacists:

  • ‘practising’, in other words, health care professionals providing services directly to patients;
  • ‘professionally active’, in other words, ‘practising’ professionals plus health care professionals for whom their medical education is a prerequisite for the execution of their job;
  • ‘licensed’, in other words, health care professionals who are registered and entitled to practise as health care professionals.

Data on dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists are classified according to the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO); they are defined under ISCO 08 as code 226:

  • 226 Other health professionals;
  • 2261 Dentists;
  • 2262 Pharmacists;
  • 2264 Physiotherapists.

For country specific notes, please refer to these background information documents:

Note on tables: the symbol ‘:’ is used to show where data are not available.

Context

According to EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), some 4.1 % of the EU-28’s population reported they had unmet needs for dental care due to financial reasons in 2015; this figure was slightly more than double the corresponding share of the population reporting they had finance-related unmet medical needs (2.0 %). This difference may, at least in part, be due to national social security systems covering fewer people or a lower proportion of the total cost of dental care, resulting in some individuals having to pay a relatively high share of their dental expenses out of their own pockets (or through private health insurance).

‘Dental tourism’ is an area that has seen particularly rapid growth in several EU Member States in recent years, for example, in Hungary, as relatively low prices, increased patient mobility, lower prices for air travel, and greater consumer confidence and awareness have led some to consider the option of having dental treatment abroad. This pattern may be expected to develop in the coming years: Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare was implemented in 2013 and provides patients with increased rights and promotes cooperation between health systems.

An increasing number of health professionals are seeking jobs in other EU Member States. Aside from the expected benefits for the individuals concerned, their movement can help rectify labour market imbalances between countries. Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications provides a Europe-wide legal framework enabling Member States to recognise each other’s qualifications. A range of health professionals — including dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists — enjoy automatic recognition, in other words, if they are a certified practitioner in their home country then they are automatically entitled to practice anywhere else in the EU. The directive also provides a set of minimum requirements for each professional activity, including: the need for a compulsory university degree in order to be a dental practitioner or a pharmacist; and a minimum study/training period of four years for dental practitioners, five years for pharmacists, and three years for physiotherapists.

See also

Online publications

Healthcare human and physical resources

Methodology

General health statistics articles

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Database

Health care resources (hlth_res)
Health care staff (hlth_staff)
Health graduates (hlth_rs_grd)
Health personnel (excluding nursing and caring professionals) (hlth_rs_prs1)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links

European Union, OECD and WHO

Other external links