The number of doctors and nurses has reached record levels in the OECD. Countries should now reform their training and employment strategies to better respond to people’s changing health needs and also reduce their reliance on foreign-trained health workers from developing countries, according to a new OECD report.
“Health Workforce Policies in OECD countries: Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places” says that in 2013, a total of 3.6 million doctors and 10.8 million nurses were employed in OECD countries, up from 2.9 million doctors and 8.3 million nurses in 2000.
The growth in the number of doctors has been particularly rapid in some countries, such as Turkey, Korea and Mexico, from relatively low levels in 2000. The number of nurses has also increased in nearly all OECD countries, both in countries that had relatively low numbers in 2000, such as Korea and Portugal, and in others that already had relatively high numbers, such as Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.
The report notes that a considerable number of doctors and nurses report a mismatch between their skills and their job requirements. About half of doctors and 40% of nurses report being under-skilled for some of the tasks they have to perform. At the same time, a large majority of doctors and nurses also report being over-skilled for some of the work that they have to do.
To address these challenges, the OECD report lays out a three-point plan which recommends that countries implement policies to promote:
The right jobs
Train a sufficient number and proper mix of health workers to meet future needs, without unduly relying on the training efforts of other countries, particularly those suffering from acute shortages, as is the case in a number of developing and emerging economies.
The right skills
Ensure that health workers acquire the right skills and competences and are given opportunities for adapting their skills during their working life to deliver high-quality health services in more team-based and patient-centred approaches.
The right places
Provide everyone with adequate access to health care regardless of where they live, by promoting a more even geographic distribution of health workers and services through financial incentives or regulations, and making greater use of innovative health service delivery models, notably telemedicine.
Full report here