Healthcare provision under pressure from staff shortages

In less than a decade there might be as many as 135,000 vacancies in the Dutch healthcare sector. The current staff shortages, especially among nurses, are endangering the quality and accessibility of care. The government is working with many parties to address this problem.

Dutch healthcare is currently facing major challenges. The demand for care is rising amongin the aging population. On top of that there is a severe shortage of staff. Hence, the tension between supply and demand in healthcare is growing, putting the accessibility and quality of care under pressure. Treatments are delayed and waiting times are getting longer. The government is working with many parties to address this problem.

Biggest shortage among nurses
At the beginning of September, the Barometer Nederlandse Gezondheidszorg -– a  report about Dutch healthcare -– was  published by EY. As was outlined in the report, approximately one in seven healthcare employees changed jobs in 2021. The number of vacancies increased from 3.2% to 3.9% over the last year. Moreover, according to ABF Research, in 2031 the Netherlands might face a shortage as big as 135,000 healthcare workers. Currently there are around 61,000 vacancies in the Dutch healthcare sector. The biggest shortage is among nurses, which is visible across the whole sector -– in  hospitals, district nursinghome care, long-term care and mental health care. Th- isIt has consequences for the availability, accessibility and continuity of care, – saysid Francis Bolle from the Dutch Nurses’ Association (V&VN).

Listing the reasons of the nurses’ shortage, Bolle for The Holland Times, she mentionsed an increasing demand for care due to the aging population, as well as high rates of staff leaving the profession due to and difficult working conditions. These, which include high work pressure, unnecessary administration and high absenteeism due to illness in combination with limited autonomy and control over one’s own profession. According to Bolle, there is sufficient interest in nursing schoolscourses, but manysome people resign alreadyquite during training or shortly after. She said that within two years after graduation, 40% of nurses leave their position and/or the healthcare sector. The job is physically demanding and comes with a big responsibility. Many nurses are also unsatisfied with their salaries: . According to the data from, a nurse’s average starting salary in the Netherlands is only € 3,9202,500 rising to € 3,000 after five years. euro.

Nurses are on the frontline and are at risk of experiencing aggression from patients or their families. This was already a problem before the pandemic, as the society is “„individualizing” and many people want to “„claim more rights”. However, Ccovid caused an increase in violent behaviours towards healthcare professionals.

Integrated Care Agreement
There are dark clouds above Dutch healthcare. The situation needs to be addressed on many levels, hence the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports has is workinged with multiple parties to reach an Integrated Care Agreement. Many professional organizations have been involved, including the Dutch Federation of Medical Specialists, National Association of General Practitioners (LHV) and the Dutch Federation of University Medical CentersCentres. Hospitals, nursers, patients, health insurers and other parties also worked on the agreement. All parties except for the GPs eventually signed the agreement on 16 September 16th. General Practitioners will not support the document unless their preconditions demands are met – mainly to reduce the enormous workload that GPs are labouring under. LHV has given the government until December to adjust the agreement. If this is done, the organization will sign it.

As the government outlines, in the Integrated Care Agreement sit is states,ed, among other things, that all healthcare parties must cooperate more intensively with each other, primary care must be strengthened and more effort must be put into prevention of illnesses. Another challenge is to make the healthcare sector a more attractive workplace, for example by. This is supposed to include r reducing work pressure and limiting administrative tasks. There are also other goals such as making online, digital or remote care easier and improving evening, night and weekend care. The sSituation is also supposed to improve for patients with mental health complaints.

The Dutch Patients’ Federation outlines what will improve for the patients will notice upon implementation of the agreement. The good news is that GPs will have more time for each patient and that physical visits for every doctor appointment will not be necessary (digital contact will be an option). People are also supposed to get a better insight into their medical data.

 So- called “”highly complex care” will only be provided by doctors with extensive experience with certain forms of treatment. Hospitals lacking the experience will no longer be allowed to perform certain procedures in the future. This means a need for stronger regional cooperation in healthcare.

Written by Zuzanna Kuffel