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Public Health
News announcement9 January 2015Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety

Improving the recruitment and retention of health professionals – page updated

Improving the recruitment and retention of health professionals – page updated

To ensure a sustainable health workforce in the EU crucially depends on attracting people to work in the healthcare services and retaining qualified experienced staff in a highly competitive global labour market.

In 2013, the Commission launched a study on Effective Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Health Workers to analyse the various dimensions of the challenge of recruiting and retaining professionals in the health sector. The study findings were published in July 2015.

Non-financial factors such as a supportive and safe work environment are important to recruit health workers, particularly women. The EU research project Nurse Forecasting in Europe provides evidence on the link between the work environment and nurse satisfaction.

The European Social Dialogue in the hospital and healthcare sector agreed a Code of Conduct on the Ethical Cross-Border Recruitment and Retention in the Hospital Sector and a Framework of Actions on Recruitment and Retention.

The capacity of health systems to deliver health services and meet the changing demands of care strongly depends on the availability of a workforce with the right skills and flexibility. Health systems that support high levels of initial education and training, as well as consistent investment in continuous professional development, are better equipped to develop innovative and integrated solutions to respond to the major challenges that the EU is facing.


The State of the Health in the EU and its companion report highlight the importance of promoting reforms aimed at tackling critical health workforce issues such as supply, distribution and a traditional skill mix, in order to strengthen prevention, primary care and integrated service delivery.


The European Commission encourages EU-wide activities in health workforce planning and forecasting, so as to support EU countries in applying theory to practice in building national capacities.

Since 2012, it has contributed to addressing the challenges and demands through the following initiatives:

SEPEN - Support for the health workforce planning and forecasting expert network (2017 – 2018)

Expertise and knowledge sharing on improving health workforce is to be driven through SEPEN, an expert network on planning and forecasting, the latest action supported by the EU's Health programme.

Building on the previous work of the Joint Action for health workforce planning and forecasting (2013-2016), this action aims to:

  • Develop expert networking to structure and exchange knowledge and provide a forum to address health workforce challenges
  • Map national health workforce policies in all EU countries
  • Foster the exchange of knowledge and good practices on health workforce through European workshops
  • Provide tailored support to some countries on national implementation of health workforce planning
  • Publicise and document these actions on the website.

Joint Action Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting (2013 – 2016)

The Commission's joint action on workforce planning and forecasting financed under the Health Programme, had 30 associated partners and 34 collaborative partners from 28 European countries working together on advancing the issue.

Action plan for EU health workforce (2012)

In order to address these challenges and boost employment, an action plan was drawn up by the European Commission in 2012 to encourage EU countries to work together to:

  • Improve health workforce planning and forecasting
  • Anticipate future skills needs and improving continuous professional development.


Publication date
9 January 2015
Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety