Health workforce

Promoting reform

The European Commission has provided financial support to a number of other initiatives aimed at promoting reform of critical health workforce issues. These are detailed below.

Mutual recognition of professional qualifications

Directive 2005/36/EC on recognition of professional qualifications set up a Europe-wide legal framework enabling countries to recognise each other's qualifications. Health professions (doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, vets) enjoy automatic recognition – meaning that if you are a certified practitioner in your home country, you are automatically entitled to practice anywhere in the EU.

Directive 2013/55/EU, amended the professional qualifications directive simplifying the rules to make it easier for health and other regulated professionals to practise in other EU countries.

Mobility and migration of health professionals

Two EU research projects aim to help develop a more accurate picture of health workforce migration patterns both within the EU and between the EU and other countries:

Mitigating the negative effects of migration on health systems

Health worker migration has increased worldwide over the past decades, especially from lower income countries with already fragile health systems. To address this challenge, the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel was adopted.

It aims to establish and promote voluntary principles and practices for the ethical international recruitment of health personnel and to facilitate the strengthening of health systems. Member States should discourage active recruitment of health personnel from developing countries facing critical shortages of health workers.

Effective Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Pilot network of nurse educators and regulators

A pilot network of nurse educators and regulators was established with the aim of exchanging best practices to improve the qualifications of healthcare assistants, with a particular emphasis on cross-border mobility. It examined the scope of skills and competences of healthcare assistants for potential uptake in national education and training programmes. The report can be found here.

Network to develop core competences for Healthcare assistants (HCA)

Under the European Commission's Public Health Programme 2014, the European Commission's Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) awarded a tender to a consortium led by the Dutch institute for health services research NIVEL to undertake a study. The CC4HCA study explores the interest among EU countries in developing a common position on the skills, knowledge and competences of health care assistants (HCAs) in Europe. The report can be found here.

Continuous Professional Development of Health Professionals in the EU

The European Commission's Action Plan for the EU health workforce addresses continuous professional development (CPD) as a tool to safeguard patient safety in the context of cross-border mobility of health professionals and patients. National interpretations of CPD offer differing approaches, and present opportunities for the identification of recommendations and best practices in the EU.

This study reviews continuous professional development and lifelong learning options for doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives and pharmacists in EU and EFTA countries. It identifies policy recommendations to strengthen the exchange of cooperation and best practices at European level and highlights the need to facilitate the uptake of CPD by all health professionals, including by addressing time and resource constraints. The recommendations also call for more research into CPD and its relation to patient safety and quality of care.

Sector skills Alliances

Sector Skills Alliances tackle skills gaps with regard to one or more occupational profiles in a specific sector. They do so by identifying existing or emerging sector-specific labour market needs, and by enhancing the responsiveness of vocational education and training systems, at all levels, to labour market needs.

ECVET for Elderly Care (EFEC) is the first pilot Sector Skills Alliance (SSA) in the health and care sector. This transnational partnership of organisations from six EU countries aims to improve the comparability, transparency and mutual recognition of qualifications of carers applying the ECVET principles.

Erasmus+ 2015 also held a call for further sector skills alliances in the health and care sector.