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Tackling the shortage of medical specialists

Question écrite de Mme Silvia SARDONE - Commission européenne

Subject: Tackling the shortage of medical specialists

According to research by the European Junior Doctors Association, as many as 13 countries that took part in their research are short on doctors, particularly specialists.

The research showed that the shortage is closely liked to growth in demand for health care and to an ageing population, which is changing countries’ demographics.

In some European countries, retired doctors have even been brought back into service to tackle shortages. Even then, some rural or inner parts of the continent have become ‘medical wastelands’, where doctors are like gold dust.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that a far-reaching ‘health care network’ is needed to protect Europeans’ health. However, given the time needed to train the health care workforce, a 10-year planning period would be required to build a network of that kind and to make the health system efficient.

In the light of the above and taking account of its remit, can the Commission say whether:

1. It intends to engage with the Member States to improve access to medical training by reducing and streamlining the numerus clausus system for medicine faculties?

2. It will take action to ensure that people who live in rural areas or inner regions are not treated like second-class citizens, but rather are provided with full access to medical care?


Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 3 août 2023

Answer given by Ms Kyriakides on behalf of the European Commission

(4 August 2023)

Member States are responsible for their education and training systems, including the numerus clausus for their respective medicine faculties.

However, the Commission supports Member States by contributing to skills development and life-long learning of the health workforce through several actions, including the Erasmus+ project ‘BeWell’ (1), which will produce a Skills Strategy and innovative curricula, and the EU4Health training action (2) with a focus on digital skills.

Furthermore, the Commission is committed to supporting Member States in improving access to healthcare and tackling shortages of health professionals, within the limitations of EU competences.

Relevant actions at EU level are a cluster of projects on workforce retention, task shifting and medical desert s (3) under the Third Health Programme, and a Joint Action on health workforce planning (4) co-funded by the EU4Health programme.

The long-term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas (5), in its efforts to tackle demographic change, acknowledges that doctors are essential to rural life and jobs, as well as to ensure no-one and no place is left behind.

The Vision includes a Rural Pact and an EU Rural Action Plan to make rural areas attractive spaces of opportunity, equipped with efficient, accessible and affordable public and private services, such as health and care services.

In addition, the Commission encourages Member States within the European Semester to address outstanding health system reform challenges including health workforce shortages.

1 ∙ ⸱

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| | ) Furthermore, all Recovery and Resilience Plans submitted by Member States contain health investments and reforms, including some on territorial inequalities in access to healthcare in rural areas and health workforce.

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