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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
Danish nurses on outpatient wards could be asked to take on shift work to help prevent nurses from leaving the public health sector. Illustration photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix

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 

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HEALTH

Danish region wants health service physiotherapy without referral from doctor

Greater Copenhagen says it wants to extend nationally a scheme allowing patients to access physiotherapy through the public health system without a doctor’s referral.

Danish region wants health service physiotherapy without referral from doctor

Under current rules, referral from a doctor covers around 40 percent of the cost of physiotherapy treatment.

Patients can go directly to physiotherapists without a doctors’ referral if they pay the full cost of treatment.

The proposed scheme would see physiotherapists make the decision as to whether the patient qualifies for the subsidy.

A trial project in two municipalities in the region, Ballerup and Frederikssund, proved popular with patients and doctors.

As a result, the Greater Copenhagen health region wants to see whether the scheme can be extended nationally, news wire Ritzau reports.

“If we can offer easier access to treatment thereby avoid patients getting worsened symptoms and needing more expensive treatment later on, I think it would be worth it,” Karin Friis Bach, an elected head of committee for local health services with Region Greater Copenhagen, told Ritzau.

An evaluation by the health authority suggested that direct access to physiotherapy did not increase costs for the public health provider. The scheme did not result in increased demand at physio clinics, results from evaluation of the scheme showed.

The plan could relieve strain on the health service according to the chairman for the general practitioners’ union PLO in Copenhagen, Peder Reistad.

“In a time where there is a shortage of GPs and the entire health system is under strain, it makes sense to look at whether there are tasks that can be undertaken more smoothly to free up time for general practice,” Reistad said.

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