Intended for healthcare professionals


Challenges posed by the global crisis in the health workforce

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6201
  1. James Buchan, professor1,
  2. Jim Campbell, director2
  1. 1Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH27 6UU, UK
  2. 2Instituto de Cooperación Social Integrare, Barcelona, Spain
  1. jbuchan{at}

No workforce, no health

In May 2013, the World Health Assembly recognised that renewed attention to the “health workforce crisis” is central to achieving quality healthcare through universal health coverage.1 2 Next month, the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health will convene to agree on what can and should be done across all countries to solve the crisis.3 Often oversimplified as a numerical shortage of healthcare workers, the crisis also has management, quality, location, and performance dimensions. These problems have often been recognised (hence the much used phrase “right staff, right place, right time, right skills”) but rarely dealt with effectively.

Although the impact of the health workforce crisis is most evident in emerging economies, advanced economies have not escaped and will have a major role in local, national, regional, and global solutions to the multidimensional challenges. This includes responding to drivers of change, such as financial austerity, and the “double whammy” of an ageing population and ageing health workforce, which present both an opportunity for transformative thinking and a threat to the status quo.

In advanced …

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