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Nurses need 'the right jobs, with the right skills, in the right places', says report

OECD countries urged to adopt three-point strategic approach to health workforces

A new report claims the next major challenge facing global health care is not how many nurses there are but what skills they have and where they should be working.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report ­– Health Workforce Policies: Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places ­– said that in 2013, 10.8 million nurses and 3.6 million doctors were employed in OECD countries including the UK, Portugal and South Korea.

Figures were up from 8.3 million and 2.9 million respectively in 2000 and signify ‘a record level’ according to the report’s authors.

They said countries should now reform their training and employment strategies to better respond to people’s changing health needs and reduce the reliance on health workers from developing countries.

The growth in the number of nurses has increased not only in countries like South Korea and Portugal which had relatively low numbers in 2000, but also in those who already had relatively high numbers, such as Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.

The report attributes this growth to a ‘substantial’ increase in student intakes in medical and nurse education, as well as the amount of immigration of medical professionals.

In 2013-14, 6% of all nurses had been trained outside of the countries they are working in, with large numbers coming from countries in Africa which already have severe shortages themselves.

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría called for countries to ‘co-operate more’ to create strategic investments in a universal health workforce.

The report also highlights a mismatch of skills and jobs, with 40% of nurses reporting being under-skilled for some of the tasks required of them regularly but conversely a large number reporting being over-skilled.

It recommends all countries adopt a three-point policy strategy that aims to result in jobs being filled by the right people with the right skills, in the places they are needed most.

Read the report in full here

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