The global health crisis has exposed the imbalances and shortages that the European healthcare sector faces. As we build a post-pandemic world, Europe needs more medical professionals than at any time in its history. It needs medical professionals who will be doctors and nurses, and researchers and medical consultants. This problem is not unique to Europe. The whole world is in serious shortage of medical professionals. The biggest driver of demand is the aging population in Europe and the advanced economies.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will be 40 million health sector jobs created by 2030!
WHO’s report shows that even with a 40 million increase in the number of health sector jobs by 2030, there will still be a shortage of 18 million jobs.
In Europe, WHO expects shortages to persist despite the number of doctors and nurses rising by around 10% in the last decade.
There are large disparities in the supply of doctors and nurses between countries within Europe. Some countries have 5 times more doctors than others.
Most doctors in Europe are specialists. Over the last decade, the ratio of specialists to general practitioners (GP) has been 1 to 3.2. Primary health care needs to be bolstered by increasing the number of GPs.
The average age of doctors is increasing, with a third of doctors over 55 years of age, a 6%
Rise in the last 7 years. The continent needs more medical graduates.
In a continent with an aging population, nurses play a vital role in geriatric care. Nevertheless, there are countries with 9 times fewer nurses than others.
The ratio of nurses to doctors varies greatly in Europe, because there are no guidelines for optimizing the healthcare work force’s composition. In Georgia and Greece, for instance, there is a nurse for every doctor, but in Finland and Ireland, there are 4 to 5 nurses for every doctor.
Although the continent has 7.3 million nurses and midwives, this falls short of what the continent needs.
Oral care, due to its link to overall health, and its importance as a standalone category, has driven greater demand for the best dentists. Demand for dentists over the last two years has led to some dental practices being booked months in advance and many people going without oral care.
The rate at which the population is aging is faster than the growth in the number of medical professionals. In the WHO European region, it takes 12 years of education to enter an educational program to become a nurse or midwife. However, the number of nurses who have the academic background to take on advanced practice roles has not grown as fast as demand. This is likely to be the case over the next decade. Furthermore, requirements are not standardized, limiting mobility: in Italy, it takes just three years of university education to become a nurse, whereas in Germany, it requires three years of vocational training and thereafter, three years of a bachelor’s degree.
Another reason for the shortage is that medical professionals choose to migrate from poorer countries within the European Union to wealthier ones, in search of better wages. For example, a young doctor in Finland, which has a shortage of doctors, can make €2,000 to €3,000 per month, which is four to five times what that doctor could make in Estonia. The result is that poorer countries are experiencing greater shortages. Richer countries still face shortages because the rise in the number of doctors cannot match the rate at which the continent is aging.