Shortages of skilled staff poses risk to health system , warns Department

Harris launches new framework to support recruitment and retention of personnel

Global, regional and national health workforce demand is expected to increase in the years ahead, Minister for Health Simon Harris said. Photograph: Alan Betson

Global, regional and national health workforce demand is expected to increase in the years ahead, Minister for Health Simon Harris said. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Emerging and accelerating global and regional shortages of healthcare professionals present a significant strategic risk to the effective functioning of the Irish health system in the coming years , the Department of Health has warned.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris on Tuesday launched a new national framework “to support the recruitment and retention of the right mix of staff across the health and social care system and build a sustainable, resilient workforce for the future”.

He said with a growing and ageing population this approach was essential if the country was to meet the planned and projected need.

Addressing the Global Forum for Human Resources for Health in Dublin, he said that in Ireland, along with many parts of the world, the health service was experiencing challenges in the recruitment and retention of health professionals, including doctors and nurses.

“In common with other countries, this challenge will become even more pronounced in the coming decades. Global, regional and national health workforce demand is expected to increase in the years ahead. This increase comes as a direct consequence of population and economic growth, combined with demographic and epidemiological changes as well as other factors. “

The Minister said the World Health Organisation had forecast global deficit of 18 million skilled health workers by 2030 while in the European region, the European Commission had estimated a potential shortfall of around 1 million health workers by 2020.

Mr Harris told the conference that Ireland was “ both a source and destination country for health workers”.

He said Ireland was taking steps at national level to stabilise the health workforce and build a sustainable, resilient workforce for the future.

He said the objective of the framework is to identify, agree and implement appropriate solutions to health workforce challenges - either within the health sector or inter-sectorally with education and other partners.

In a background note on the new framework, the Department of Health said: “The health sector in Ireland is already experiencing challenges in the recruitment and retention of health professionals, including doctors and nurses.

“While targeted efforts are underway to address current recruitment and retention issues, the potential impact of emerging and accelerating global and regional health workforce shortages on health professional recruitment and retention presents a significant strategic risk to the effective functioning of the Irish health system in the coming years. “

Mr Harris spoke at the Global Forum for Human Resources for Health, which runs until this Friday in the RDS in Dublin and is being attended by 1,000 policy-makers and researchers from around the world.

The conference also heard that while most medical students plan to go abroad when they graduated only a small minority intend emigrating for good.

Research on inward and outward migration of doctors from Ireland drawn up by the RCSI found that in a survey conducted in 2016/17, 54 percent of Irish final med students said they intended to leave after internship, with a view to returning later to make their careers in Ireland.

The study found that 37 per cent planned to remain and train in Ireland and that only 9 per cent indicated they would leave and not return.