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Invest in health workforce or risk collapse, WHO warns governments

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 24 March 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p713
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The World Health Organization has warned governments that the health workforce crisis in Europe is no longer just a threat but is now here. Elisabeth Mahase asks what happens next

Last year the World Health Organization released a report warning of a “ticking time bomb” threatening health systems in Europe and Central Asia: a growing shortage of health workers.1

With quickly ageing populations and an ageing health workforce—40% of doctors in Europe are close to retirement in a third of countries—along with a surge in chronic illnesses and the ongoing effects of the covid pandemic, WHO warned that many countries could soon see their healthcare systems collapse unless they take urgent action.

Six months on, the situation has worsened, as healthcare workers throughout Europe increasingly resort to industrial action over pay and conditions.

Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said, “The health workforce crisis in Europe is no longer a looming threat—it is here and now. Health providers and workers across our region are clamouring for help and support . . .

“We cannot wait any longer to address the pressing challenges facing our health workforce. The health and wellbeing of our societies are at stake—there is simply no time to lose.”

Industrial action

In England an overburdened and under-resourced NHS has been facing strikes for …

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