Denmark takes ‘far too long’ to approve qualifications of foreign medics

The Danish parliamentary ombudsman’s office has concluded that authorities take too long to approve qualifications and authorise foreign medical professionals who apply to work in Denmark.

hospital in denmark
Denmark's parliamentary watchdog says the country's Patient Afety Authority takes too long to process authorisation of foreign doctors. File photo: Asger Ladefoged/Ritzau Scanpix

A report by the ombudsman, which was released earlier this week, said that the processing time for applications had increased from 10 months in 2018 to as much as 3 years.

“That is far too long,” the ombudsman’s office said as the report was released.

“When a foreign doctor from a country outside of the EU or EEA applies for authorisation to work in Denmark, it takes around three years from when the Danish Patient Safety Authority receives the application to when the authority assesses whether the doctor’s training is suitable to be applied in practice,” it wrote.

That is despite the actual assessment of the application taking as little as “between two and five days”, the ombudsman wrote.

The report released by the parliamentary ombudsman’s office comes following an investigation into the issue by the watchdog. The Local has previously reported on the long waits faced by highly qualified foreign medics who seek to practice in Denmark.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark take so long to authorise foreign medical professionals?

“(Three years) is far too long. Not least when you consider that the cases in reality are sitting still for more or less all of that period and the cases are normally uncomplicated and quick to process,” parliamentary ombudsman Niels Fenger said.

The Ombudsman investigation began in June 2021 following reports in Danish media and parliamentary discussion of the issue, it said.

According to the Danish Patient Safety Authority, longer processing times have occurred as a result of a marked increase in the number of applications, while around one and a half months of the authority’s yearly calendar is allocated to the task.

As a result, an imbalance has occurred between the number of staff and the number of applications which must be processed.

As of June 30th 2021, 1,224 applications were awaiting assessment by the Danish Patient Safety Authority, according to the ombudsman.

The parliamentary watchdog also stated that the Ministry of Health has informed it that it, along with the Patient Safety Authority, is currently looking into ways to reduce the waiting time.

The 2022 budget includes 23.1 million kroner of spending aimed at reducing the backlog of authorisation applications from health personnel from non-EU countries.

The ombudsman said it would review the waiting times again in 2024 to assess whether these initiatives have had the desired effect.

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Danish businesses repeat call for foreign workers amid labour shortage

Local authorities and a major business interest organisation have urged Denmark’s government to address a labour shortage.

Danish businesses repeat call for foreign workers amid labour shortage

Unmet demand for labour in both private businesses and the public sector has reached a crisis point, according to an appeal to the government to reach a broader labour agreement. 

Parliament must renew its efforts to find a new national compromise which will secure more labour, the National Association of Municipalities (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL) and the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) said according to financial media Finans.

“The parties [in parliament] must be honest with voters and start a completely different and strict prioritisation of what the public sector can offer people,” mayor and KL chairperson Martin Damm told news wire Ritzau.

“Otherwise, the parties must find the labour needed for private companies to provide growth and wellbeing, and for us at municipalities to have the staff and economy to deliver the services people expect,” he said.

The municipalities will need 44,000 additional employees by 2030 due to increasing numbers of children and elderly in the population, according to KL.

Short the lack of labour persist, municipal governments could be forced to reduce the priority of services such as cleaning for elderly residents, according to Damm.

Danish businesses are finding it harder than ever to recruit staff and could hire 38,000 new workers immediately if they were available, according to DI, which represents the interests of about 19,000 Danish companies. 

Lars Sandahl Sørensen, managing director of DI, firmly believes the answer to the labour shortage lies outside Danish borders. 

“We will need many more foreigners,” Sørensen told Finans.

“It is not about getting cheap labour, but about getting people at all. We are in a situation where we do not have employees to carry out the things on green conversion that we have already decided to do, and that we would like to do on health and welfare,” he said.

Employment minister Peter Hummelgaard told Finans that the government agreed a deal on international recruitment shortly before the summer break.

READ MORE: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you aren’t an EU national?