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Ireland prepares for future shortfall of health workers

20 Mar 2015

Already smarting from an economic-recession-induced medical manpower shortage, Ireland has taken heed of a pending international shortfall in skilled health workers in only five years’ time by commissioning new research to address the issue, IMT reports.

The Department of Health has requested the Health Research Board (HRB) to commission a three-person team with a mix of strong information science, social and health economics research skills to help answer the Department’s questions on the best approach to workforce planning and its development in order to support the HSE implement Action 46 of Future Health.

Action 46 of Future Health: A Strategic Framework for the Reform of the Health Service 2012-2015 (DoH, 2012: 47) commits the Department to work with the HSE to implement an approach to workforce planning and development.

The HRB is commissioning researchers to conduct an evidence review of health workforce planning models, tools and processes at an operational level and their effectiveness using the Board’s approach to evidence reviews.

The European Commission estimates a potential shortfall of around 1 million health workers across Europe by 2020 and the WHO/Global Health Workforce Alliance predicts a global deficit of 12.9 million skilled health professionals by 2035.

These shortfalls will intensify the health worker recruitment and retention challenge that Ireland currently faces, the HRB has acknowledged.

Factors including population ageing, the rising burden of chronic diseases, the rapid pace of technological/diagnostic innovation and the development of the clinical and integrated care programmes would all compound these shortfalls.

The health sector has already faced significant challenges in the recruitment and retention of health and social care professionals, including doctors and nurses. While specific, targeted efforts are under way to address these recruitment and retention issues (e.g. the implementation of the Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structure, the Taskforce on Staffing and Skill Mix for Nursing), an integrated, national response was required in order to ensure that Ireland had a “fit-for-purpose health workforce” with the capacity to deliver the quality, safe patient care required.

Lloyd Mudiwa

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times