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Overcoming the nursing workforce crisis in Europe to improve care for people with non-communicable diseases

27 July 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 14

Throughout Europe, poor working conditions and high workloads (Dall'Ora et al, 2020), low pay (OECD and European Union, 2022) and a lack of career opportunities (Royal College of Nursing, 2023) are contributing to high numbers of nurses quitting or considering quitting the profession. A 2020 review of UK working conditions found that public sector nurses had higher levels of stress, greater pressure from staff shortages and double the number of sickness days of those working in the private sector (West et al, 2020).

Nurses have an essential role across health systems, but they are particularly well-placed to deal with the challenges posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are Europe's leading cause of mortality (Global Burden of Disease 2019 collaborators, 2020), and they account for significant health expenditure (Vandenberghe and Albrecht, 2020). One pressing challenge is represented by the backlogs resulting from the widespread disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic caused to NCD care services, including health appointments/clinics, screening, diagnostics, treatments and ongoing monitoring. Another is the sometimes severe shortage of services that could support the prevention of NCDs in the longer term. Prevention often requires changes in behavioural risk factors, such as tobacco smoking, sodium intake and alcohol use, as well as in metabolic risk factors, such as blood pressure and obesity.

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