Empowering the Power Base

The future health workforce must be empowered with skills, tools and innovations that help them deliver maximal value to patients and the health system.

No healthcare without health workers

There is no healthcare without a health workforce. The healthcare workforce is a fundamental building block of health systems and a key determinant of how well they perform.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the vital contribution that healthcare workers make to society and has boosted their standing in the eyes of the general public.

However, COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a major negative impact on healthcare staff. In addition to the risk of COVID-19 infection itself, many frontline staff are exhausted and under severe mental strain owing to prolonged periods of excessive pressure and high excess death rates, in some cases with low levels of staff and equipment. Burnout, distress and mental health problems are widespread.

This pressure on health workers was exacerbated by the existing shortages of doctors and nurses that exist in many EU countries. COVID-19 has shown how the depletion of the workforce and implicit attrition in service delivery left some countries ill-equipped to deal with a spike in demand for healthcare.

More broadly, a lack of skilled workforce also contributes to variations in patients’ access to innovative services and technologies, and to their health outcomes. Health is already the single largest employment sector in Europe and the EU will need 11 million newly trained or imported health and long-term workers to satisfy the rising demand in the health and long-term care sectors between 2018 and 2030.

Now is the time for healthcare systems to invest in and empower healthcare workers to deliver the ideal health systems for the future.

Empowering the future health workforce

Rather than thinking about the workforce working for healthcare systems, we should ask: how can future health systems better work for the health workforce?

We believe that innovation in organisational models, digital solutions, medicines, diagnostics and other technologies should be part of the solution – helping the workforce to achieve the best possible and personalised care for their patients.

Empowering the workforce within future health systems will involve:

  • Fostering and enabling the levels of collaboration and co-ordination that underpin people-centric integrated care models
  • Enabling task-shifting for a more resilient and flexible workforce
  • Expanding the specialist expertise and capacity needed to deliver innovative treatments, e.g. through expert centres and European reference networks
  • Upskilling staff to use the digital health and genomic technologies
  • Supporting healthcare organisations to adopt innovation that facilitates and enhances the work of healthcare professionals, including digital tools that enable efficient data collection, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on the interaction with their patients
  • Implementing organisational, financial, governance and regulatory environments that support transformational change.

We salute the work already underway to help empower the workforce of the future, for example by the OECD. UK Topol Review, Expert Panel on effective ways in investing in health, WHO Europe, the European Commission and the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience.

EFPIA supports the public-private partnership approaches and collaboration across the professions to leverage the opportunities and tackle the challenges in our health ecosystem and is ready to contribute, including through initiatives such as the European ‘Pact for Skills’.

As part of the EU Health Coalition, we also support calls for major investments in training the next generation of researchers, with greater coordination and harmonisation of training programmes across Europe to strengthen the research ecosystem and careers within it.

Industry: partnering in POWER

The industry’s substantial investment in research and development in Europe contributes to the continuous professional development of healthcare professionals through participation in clinical trials and other research activities. Within our own industry, EFPIA members will continue to build the best possible workforce to serve patients and health systems. To this end, we are committed to life-long learning and professional development.

In another example, one EFPIA member, AstraZeneca, is partnering with public entities in the Reskilling for Employment (R4E) initiative launched by the European Roundtable for Industry. This will help enable unemployed and ‘at-risk’ workers to reskill at a time when the job landscape in Europe is undergoing significant change. The ultimate goal is to reskill 1 million adults of all ages in Europe by 2025 – empowering the human capital in Europe’s recovery, promoting social inclusion and smoothening the transition to a green and digital economy.

In the future, EFPIA members intend to support workforce enablement and empowerment in collaboration with all parties by:

  • Delivering innovation that enhances the work of healthcare professionals
  • Ensuring real-world data collection does not unnecessarily burden healthcare professionals
  • Contributing our expertise to Lifelong Learning in Healthcare. The framework for such actions includes ethical, transparent and responsible engagement, quality content and robust processes such as educational needs assessment, learning design and outcomes assessment.


“EFPIA supports the public-private partnership approaches and collaboration across the professions to leverage the opportunities and tackle the challenges in our health ecosystem”


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Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health. The organisation of resilient health and social care following the COVID-19 pandemic. European Union, 2020. Available at

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Khan Burki T. Burnout among cancer professionals during COVID-19. Lancet 2020;21:P1402

OECD/European Union. Health at a Glance: Europe 2020: State of Health in the EU Cycle. OECD, 2020

OECD. Empowering the health workforce – strategies to make the most of the digital revolution. OECD, 2020. Available at

Socha-Dietrich K. Engaging and transforming the health workforce. In: Health in the 21st century: putting data to work for stronger health systems. OECD, 2017 Available at

Topol E, et al. The Topol Review: Preparing the workforce to deliver the digital future. NHS England, 2019. Available at

Wharton G, et al. The Partnership for Health Sustainability and Resilience. Interim report of the pilot phase. 2021. Available at

World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Health workforce website.
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World Health Organization. A universal truth: no health without a workforce. WHO, 2013

World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. European programme of work 2020–2025. WHO, 2020