In times of interconnected labour markets globally and within the EU, national policies on staff retention, self-sufficiency and better working conditions are becoming increasingly important. Initiatives from the European Communities, the WHO and OECD underline that Health Professional Mobility (HPM) is at the heart of current debates in Europe.
HEALTH PROMeTHEUS, funded through FP7, contributes to these discussions by filling a substantial part of the knowledge gap on the magnitude and impacts of health professionals moving to other countries. The study provides fresh insights with quantitative as well qualitative data analyses and research on trends and policies, which aim to manage migration organizationally, nationally and internationally.
Health professionals have always moved to, from and within Europe for work and other reasons. However, concerns about the scale of movement and its impacts on health systems are increasing. New disease patterns, new technology and increasingly global markets have multiplied pressures on health systems. Policy makers and managers need to respond but do not know enough about what is happening.
Health professionals have been identified as a critical factor for health services. However recognizing their importance in the planning and organization of services does not mean it is an easy ‘resource’ to manage. Health systems exist in a broad and dynamic European environment, one which is subject to constant change and which in turn creates overlapping pressures on health services and health service staff affecting stocks (numbers) and flows (movement of people in and out of categories).
The approach to the project is based on the need to see the issues of professional mobility against a background of cross-cutting contextual factors, including:
All these pressures affect the number and type of jobs in any given health system or health service setting. They also affect the ability and willingness of individuals to meet the expectations placed on them by new roles which in turn has huge consequences for the way patients are treated and for the quality and responsiveness of the care they receive.
The project was therefore underpinned by an understanding of the interaction between the various pressures and their impact at the national, sub-national, institutional and individual level with all the implications involved for mobility and for wider health service functioning.
Preliminary results show that health professional mobility does affect all EU countries, however the scale of movements and mobility patterns vary substantially. For both receiving and sending countries impacts on health services delivery and the availability of resources were observed albeit evidence is sometimes scarce. Measures to retain staff can be of financial and non-financial nature, including improving working conditions and work-life-balance as well as career development opportunities.
HEALTH PROMeTHEUS makes a significant contribution to future thinking on the movement of health professionals in the European Union. The project provides important data and evidence for policy makers and managers to build on, and shows the importance of recruitment and retention practices.