Learning from Ireland: expanding the role of nurses and midwives to improve health outcomes

A survey that included 32 countries in Europe in 2015 found that more than two thirds had extended the official scopes of practice of nurses in primary care. Ireland is one of those countries. 

As of April 2016, a total of 894 nurses and midwives in the country were registered to prescribe medicinal products. This includes 193 advanced nurse practitioners in 53 specialties and 8 advanced midwife practitioners in 6 specialties, all registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. It is not necessary to be an advanced practitioner to prescribe. 

While the overall number of prescribing nurses and midwives has remained small in numerical terms since the introduction of the regulations in 2008, the impact has been significant. An independent evaluation reported that expanding nurse roles in Ireland has led to, among other things: 

  • improved continuity of patient care;
  • reduced admission rates;
  • reduced workload of doctors;
  • reduced waiting times for services;
  • improved family and carer satisfaction; and
  • increased professional development and satisfaction of nurses and midwives

To read more about expanding the role of nurses and midwives on the WHO Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Health workforce – Learning from Ireland: expanding the role of nurses and midwives to improve health outcomes

Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health

The Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health will be held on 13–17 November 2017, in Dublin, Ireland with the theme: building the health workforce of the future. The Forum welcomes participation from representatives in the education, health, labour/employment and finance sectors. The Forum will feature high-impact decision-makers, leaders and investors representing all stakeholder groups to discuss and debate innovative approaches towards advancing the implementation of the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 and the recommendations of the United Nations High level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth.

For more information about the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health on the who.int website.

Youth in Health in Action

The European Solidarity Corps offers young Europeans from 18 to 30 years old the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Aiming for 100,000 placements by 2020, NGOs, Member State authorities and other organisations can offer quality placements for volunteering, traineeships or jobs.

Health is an integral part of this initiative. There are many ways young people could play a part in health projects, making use of their skills be it language, communication, IT or medical skills. If you have ideas and projects which you think could provide young people from the Solidarity Corps with opportunities to learn and demonstrate solidarity, the Corps would like to hear from you.

For more information on the European Solidarity Corps on the ec.europa.eu website

Assessing integrated care in Europe

The EU’s expert group on health systems’ performance assessment has produced a report ‘Blocks: tools and methodologies to assess integrated care in Europe’.

They did so for two main reasons, firstly, at this stage of technological development and with current demographic patterns, we cannot rely on homogeneous, top-down healthcare solutions. Secondly, every patient is different and we need to develop patient-centred care tailored to individual needs and which allows them to be involved in their own care.
They have measured both the degree of integration of care and the performance of integrated care systems.
To download the report on Integrated care from the ec.europa.eu website

Hospital resilience in emergencies

The Hospital Safety Index is a rapid, reliable way of assessing risk in the health sector. It helps health facilities manage their safety and avoid becoming casualties of disasters. Through it, WHO/Europe has strengthened support to national authorities to build the resilience of health facilities in emergencies.

118 hospitals in 7 countries in the WHO European Region were assessed using the WHO Hospital Safety Index tool in 2015 & 2016. Altogether, 93 experts – including doctors, civil and maintenance engineers and emergency planning experts – from 14 European and 6 non-European countries were trained.

To read more and download the Hospital Safety Index from the euro.who.int website

UK researchers are top recipients of EU funding

UK-based researchers are top of the league in the European Research Council’s (ERC) latest round of mid-career consolidator grants. 58 researchers working in UK institutions will each receive up to €2 million (£1.7m) to set up their own teams and pursue ground-breaking ideas. Germany is in second place with 48 successful applicants.

The funding has been awarded for a wide range of disciplines from physical sciences and engineering to life sciences, social sciences and humanities.

An independent study released in July 2016 showed that over 70% of EU-funded ERC projects have made scientific breakthroughs or major advances.

More information about EU research funding on the ec.europa.eu website

Effective, accessible and resilient health systems

The European Commission’s Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health has just been renewed for three more years, running until May 2019. The aim of the Panel is to provide the Commission with independent advice from a variety of sectors  to support modern, responsive and sustainable health systems.

The Panel’s new members cover a wide range of disciplines, including human medicine, public health and economics. It will support the Commission’s efforts to provide evidence-based policy-making using both country-specific and cross-country knowledge and will support the agenda on effective, accessible and resilient health systems.

More information about the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health on the ec.europa.eu website.

Healthcare workers as “Antibiotic Guardians”

Antibiotic resistance presents one of the biggest threats to global health and development today – and the threat is growing. On any given day, about 80,000 patients – or 1 in 18 patients in hospitals – in the EU have at least one health care associated infection according to estimates from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and these are often difficult to treat because the microorganisms that cause them are resistant to antibiotics. These infections are estimated to result in 16 million extra days spent in hospital and 37,000 attributable deaths, as well as contributing to an additional 110,000 deaths a year. Annual financial losses are estimated at approximately €7 billion (direct costs only).

Health professionals – including general practitioners, nurses, hospital prescribers, dentists and pharmacists – can help prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance by following five key recommendations from WHO:

  • if you think a patient might need antibiotics, where possible test to confirm and find out which one;
  • only prescribe antibiotics when they are truly needed, according to current guidelines;
  • prescribe and dispense the right antibiotic at the right dose for the right duration;
  • prevent infections by using safe hygiene practices to ensure that your hands, instruments and environment are clean; and
  • keep your patients’ vaccinations up to date.

For more information about Antibiotic resistance on the euro.who.int website

Organising out-of-hours primary care

Out-of-hours (OOH) services provide urgent primary care when primary care physician (PCP) offices are closed, most often from 5pm on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays. Based on a policy survey (covering 27 OECD countries) and the existing literature, this paper describes the current challenges associated with the organisation of OOH primary care and reviews the existing models of delivering OOH primary care.

Findings of the paper show that most OECD health systems report key challenges to provide OOH primary care in an accessible and safe way. These challenges relate to (i) PCPs’ reluctance to practise due to high workload and insufficient remuneration; and (ii) geographical variations in access to OOH primary care within each health system. Together these challenges are leading sources of inappropriate hospital emergency department (ED) visits. Results also indicate that several models of OOH primary care exist alongside each other in the 27 OECD countries participating in the policy survey. Hospital EDs, rota groups and practice-based services remain the most common OOH arrangements, but there is a tendency to shift OOH primary care towards primary care centres and large-scale organisations known as general practice cooperatives (GPCs). A range of solutions have been implemented to improve access and quality of OOH primary care across OECD countries. These include providing organisational and financial support to PCPs; using other health care professionals (such as nurse practitioners), making OOH care participation compulsory, setting up a telephone triage system, using new technologies, and developing rich information systems.

Download the full report on Out-of-Hours primary care from the oecd-ilibrary.org website

Erasmus + opportunities

The European Commission has made three new videos available to show the great potential of the Erasmus+ programme.
These success stories feature the fields of:

  • staff mobility,
  • voluntary service
  • higher education traineeship.

The stories aim at presenting some of the Erasmus+ actions available for European citizens and the considerable advantages they can bring to all beneficiaries – students, staff, trainees, teachers and volunteers.
To find out more about the Erasmus + programme on the ec.europa.eu website