Denmark must do more to avoid shortage of nurses: health authority

Denmark’s regional health authorities have welcomed recommendations from representative organisations on how to increase recruitment of nurses.

Denmark must do more to avoid shortage of nurses: health authority
File photo: LINDA KASTRUP/Ritzau Scanpix

The country's health service is concerned about a future shortage of nurses, with the primary healthcare professionals already in short supply.

“We can already see that we have challenges with recruitment in a number of places. Looking forward, there are going to be many, many more elderly people,” said Anders Kühnau, chairperson of the Central Jutland Region health authority and head of the national salaries committee for the health service.

“This means we will have a real shortage of nurses in the coming years if nothing is done now,” Kühnau added.

Suggestions offered by the Danish Nurses’ Organization (Dansk Sygeplejeråd) and National Association of Nursing Students (Sygeplejestuderendes Landssammenslutning) would be in addition to an already-agreed political measure which aims to increase the number of nurses in Denmark by 1,100.

The 1,100 figure primarily be achieved by increasing the number of admissions to the country’s nursing vocational degree programme.

Meanwhile, the two organisations have suggested scrapping planned budget cuts to nursing degrees, ensuring full-time employment for newly-qualified nurses and improving wages and working conditions.

The latter of those three measures would attract more nurses to Denmark’s public health service, the organisations said.

But Denmark’s Regions, the elected regional authorities responsible for operating the country’s hospitals, say they are restricted by existing budgets.

“We do not have the money in Regional budgets for a wage increase or better working environments. So that is something the government and Parliament will have to find the money for, if it is going to happen,” Kühnau said.

“We don’t know exactly how many nurses we are going to be short. But we know we are going to be short of nurses.

“So it is important that more people complete the qualifications and that more nurses who are currently working outside of our health service return to it,” he continued.

The suggestions made by the two organisations would boost nurse numbers by 2,400 by 2026 in addition to the 1,100 already targeted by the political agreement, Ritzau writes.

READ ALSO: Denmark's Regions set to be disbanded after 12 years

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Danish government reaches agreement on ‘1,000 nurses’ plan

The government has reached agreement with health authorities on how to fulfil an election pledge to increase the number of nurses in the country’s public health system by 1,000.

Danish government reaches agreement on '1,000 nurses' plan
Photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

The government agreed with Danish Regions, the interest organisation for the country’s five regional health authorities, a deal to ensure that 1,000 more nurses will arrive in 2021, as promised in December’s budget.

500 of the nurses are to be found this year.

“The agreement means a significant and specified effort in relation to nurses at hospitals, which we will follow up to ensure that we reach the target of 1,000 more nurses,” finance minister Nicolai Wammen said.


The Danish Nurses' Organization (Dansk Sygeplejeråd) supports the deal, Ritzau reports.

The Social Democratic minority government reached in December an agreement with allied parties to provide 300 million kroner this year and 600 million kroner annually from next year to hire more nurses.

The purpose of that investment is to employ a total of 1,000 more nurses by next year, with the first 500 to be found in 2020.

Danish Regions will set in motion a number of measures aimed at achieving those objectives, including getting hospital staff to go from part-time to full-time, and all new positions being full-time.

In addition, better introductory courses will be introduced for new graduates, while practical elements of nursing degrees will be changed in an effort to reduce the drop-out rate of the programmes.

“On behalf of both patients and employees, I am pleased that this agreement ensures funding for more hands at hospitals,” Danish Regions chairperson Stephanie Lose said.

“This will improve treatment for patients and the working environment on the wards. However, recruitment is a major challenge as there is not a great deal of unemployment amongst nurses, which is also the case for other staff groups,” Lose added.

“I am therefore very pleased that we are in agreement with the professional organizations [unions, ed.] on a joint effort to get more people to go full-time, as this will also contribute to increasing workforce,” she added.