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The EU’s healthcare workforce

The EU’s healthcare workforce



Commission Green Paper (COM(2008) 725 final) on the EU workforce for health

Action Plan (SWD(2012) 93 final) for the EU health workforce


  • It aims to assist EU countries to tackle the main challenges in the health sector and sets out actions to enhance European cooperation and the sharing of good practices.
  • The Action Plan reflects the priorities identified by EU health ministers in December 2010 and builds on feedback from the Commission’s public consultation on the Green Paper on the European workforce for health in 2008.


Green Paper

The Green Paper examined the challenges facing the EU with regard to its health workforce. It proposed several ways forward, including:

  • strengthening capacity for screening, health promotion and disease prevention;
  • exchanging good practice on mobility of health workers;
  • reconsidering the principles of recruiting staff from non-EU countries;
  • collecting comparable information about health workers;
  • guaranteeing training for these workers in the use of new technology, amongst other skills;
  • further encouraging entrepreneurs to enter the health sector.

Action Plan

The Action Plan identified 5 key interrelated challenges for the EU health workforce brought about by an ageing population:

  • increase in labour demand;
  • need for new treatments and new ways of delivering care;
  • reduction in number of healthcare professionals;
  • difficulties in recruiting and retaining health staff;
  • worsening healthcare workforce shortages.

To address these challenges, the European Commission proposed actions in the following areas:

  • Improving health workforce planning and forecasting
    • 3-year EU joint action on forecasting health workforce needs for effective planning in the EU, which was to be launched by the end of 2012;
    • study carried out on the structure and training capacities in the EU.
  • Anticipating future skills needs, and improving continuous professional development and lifelong learning
    • introducing an EU sector skills alliance for healthcare, to develop new sector–specific training courses and new types of vocational teaching and training;
    • greater promotion of EU funding programmes (e.g. Erasmus +) that provide support for cross-border education and training, also for medical students and healthcare workers.
  • Recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals
    • workforce planning should consider how the work environment influences recruitment, retention, mobility and performance of workers, as well as health outputs and quality of care for patients;
    • EU countries should adapt work place and labour market practices to improve the opportunities for older workers.
  • Ethical recruitment of healthcare professionals
    • The Commission was to present a report on the EU Blue Card directive by 2014 to look at how, and to what extent, its guidelines on ethical recruitment have been used.


For more information, see:


Green Paper on the European Workforce for Health (COM(2008) 725 final, 10.12.2008)

Commission Staff Working Document on an Action Plan for the EU Health Workforce — Accompanying the document — Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Towards a job-rich recovery (SWD(2012) 93 final, 18.4.2012)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Towards a job-rich recovery (COM(2012) 173 final, 18.4.2012)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment (‘EU Blue Card’) (COM(2014) 287 final, 22.5.2014)

last update 09.01.2017