Lack of staff ‘biggest challenge’ for Danish health authorities

A lack of staff in the Danish health system is the greatest challenge currently faced by the sector in the country, according to a senior health official.

Lack of staff 'biggest challenge' for Danish health authorities
Nurses are among qualified staff expected to be in shortage in Denmark in coming years. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The head of the health committee for Denmark’s Regional health authorities, Karin Friis Bach, raised concerns over the staff shortage in comments to DR on Friday and repeated those sentiments in an interview with news wire Ritzau on Saturday.

The five Regions, the authorities which administrate hospitals and public healthcare services in Denmark, believe staff shortages are likely to cause issues for a number of years into the future.

“We are looking at some smaller year groups [graduating from education programmes, ed.] which will be the ones taking jobs in the health service at the same time the number of elderly people with chronic illnesses increases,” Bach said.

The Covid-19 crisis and resultant strain on the health service has further exacerbated staffing challenges at hospitals and clinics, she said.

“That gave an extra push to the problem we were already looking at, “she said.

The senior health official said that while sufficient funding was important, health services could not exist without sufficient staff.

Regional health boards have long expected to see staff shortages hit in coming years and have therefore looked for ways to address the issue.

“This is about how we can use the resources we have in the most sensible way possible. We are working with digitisation, with more targeted treatment, and with giving more focuses pathways for patients,” she said.

Last week’s announcement by universities of their new intakes for the forthcoming academic year showed an ongoing decline in the popularity of occupations including nursing as well as childcare and teaching.

Those three education programme types, as well as social worker educations, have seen an overall decrease by 14 percent in application numbers since 2019.

Member comments

  1. One compromise may be to offer foreign students enrollments and stipends, and a commitment to stay and practice medicine or nursing for X years after school and boards are complete, or they have to pay it back. Very common in other countries.

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Denmark considers moving outpatient nurses to night shifts to ease shortage

Danish hospitals could ask nurses that usually work in outpatient services to cover night and weekend shifts in an effort to ease a lack of staff cover.

Denmark considers moving outpatient nurses to night shifts to ease shortage

The Danish Regions, the elected bodies which operate hospitals in Denmark’s five regions, are considering a plan to require nurses who work at outpatient clinics to fill night and weekend shifts in hospitals, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reports.

The policy would aim to prevent hospital nurses — particularly those working in intensive care, surgery, and emergency departments — from leaving the public system for more favourable working conditions at private clinics. 

Nurses in departments with shift rotas bear the brunt of a nurse labour shortage, meaning many must take on an untenable number of night and weekend shifts as many of their colleagues leave, according to the report.

“The lack of staff is currently the biggest challenge for the health service and a more transparent and fair rota, in which staff have an input on their schedules, is one of the most important keys to becoming a more attractive place of work and retaining personnel,” Stephanie Lose, chair of the Southern Denmark regional council and vice-president of the Danish Regions, told Jyllands-Posten.

“We have to share the heavy on-call load on to more shoulders, and our clear message is that all hospitals must work with this systematically in all areas, otherwise we will not achieve our goal,” she said.

The Danish Regions want to base the plan on a model already used in the South Denmark region, according to Jyllands-Posten.

This would mean staff having rotas with at least eight weeks’ notice, and weekend shifts no more often than every third week.

The Regions also propose that nurses employed in outpatient clinics spend a third of their working time on the schedule in an inpatient ward.

The leader of Danish trade union for nurses DSR, Grete Christensen, did not dismiss the prospect in comments to Jyllands-Posten.

Christensen warned against forcing all hospitals and departments to comply with a defined model, however.

She said that the essence of the problem is a lack of nurses in the public health system.

READ ALSO: Denmark takes ‘far too long’ to approve qualifications of foreign medics, nurses