Health Workforce

General Information

An efficient public health workforce, equipped with the right skills, and with sufficient capacity to carry out activities effectively, is essential for the quality, safety and accessibility of healthcare throughout the EU. A key issue facing the European Union is that while the population is ageing and increasingly demanding healthcare services, the health workforce is shrinking.

In December 2008, the Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers launched a Green Paper on the European Workforce for Health to increase the visibility of the issues around the EU health workforce and to identify actions that can be taken at EU level. 

The EU is also regulating the recognition of healthcare professionals’ qualifications when they move from one EU Member State to practice their profession in another Member State. This is done through the Professional Qualifications Directive (EC/2005/36), which aims to ensure quality of care and patient safety while allowing healthcare professionals to benefit from the freedom of establishment in the EU. This Directive is currently undergoing a review.

EPF Position

At the core of our position is our strong belief that patients play a key role in identifying healthcare service needs, including the appropriate skills and competences needed for high-quality healthcare. Patients live with their condition every day, learn to manage it, and to navigate the health system to get the care they need. Therefore, they should be involved in developing training schemes for healthcare professionals.

Cross-country mobility of the health workforce, we believe, can help balance workforce shortages and surpluses, and lead to exchange of good practices across Europe. But there is also a potential risk to patient safety if quality standards for healthcare are not assured.

Key steps


EPF participated for the first time in the European Commission’s Working Group on the Health Workforce, and provided input into the first reading on the Professional Qualifications Directive in the European Parliament.

The EU institutions came to a compromise for early adoption of the Directive through trilogue discussions. EPF will analyse the results once the final text is adopted by the European Parliament.


The EPF developed a position statement on the review of the Professional Qualifications Directive, which was published in June.


In March EPF responded to the Commission’s consultation on the review of the Professional Qualifications Directive, and issued a joint statement with the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) to assert that safety and quality of care must remain the highest priority in the review. To read the EPF position and the EPHA/EPF joint statement, please consult the “related information” section to your right.

In June, the Commission issued a Green paper to gather again stakeholders’ views. EPF contributed a response and issued a new joint statement with other organisations, including EPHA, BEUC (the European consumers’ organisation) and the European Women’s Lobby.


EPF responded to the European Commission public consultation on the Green Paper on the European health workforce in March. The response is available from the right-hand menu.