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Health workers with right skills in right places needed

Staff writer |
The number of doctors and nurses has reached record levels in the OECD. The number of nurses has also increased in nearly all OECD countries.

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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.

Most of this growth has been driven by substantial increases in student intakes in medical and nursing education and training programmes.

Immigrant doctors and nurses have also contributed to the rise, with foreign-trained doctors accounting for 17% of active doctors in OECD countries in 2013-14 and foreign-trained nurses representing 6% of all nurses.

While about one-third of these foreign-trained doctors and nurses come from other OECD countries, large numbers also come from lower-income countries in Africa that are already facing severe shortages.

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.

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