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ESMO Supports Call for an EU Directive on Work-Related Psychosocial Risks to Prevent Burnouts in Medical Oncologists

ESMO has written to The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to express support for the development of an EU Directive to tackle work-related psychosocial risks and mitigate Europe’s health workforce crisis
01 Feb 2024

ESMO’s letter to the Belgian EU Presidency emphasised that a properly resourced and managed oncology workforce is essential for providing care for patients with cancer, for the successful delivery of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, and the reduction of cancer inequalities.

Cancer incidence in the European Union (EU) is estimated to increase from 2.74 million in 2022 to 3.25 million in 2040, which further stresses the need for a fit-for-purpose oncology workforce. However, the escalating challenges related to staff shortages, work-life balance, and oncologists’ burnouts crescendoed during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to impact the workforce today. Therefore, it is urgent to protect the wellbeing of oncology professionals through legislative, policy and workplace measures that address risk factors for burnout and staff shortages.

Belgium has identified Europe’s health workforce crisis as a key priority for its Presidency of the European Council from January-June 2024, and organised a High-Level Conference on 30.-31. January on Mental Health and Work, which focused on the prevention of psychosocial risks, stress and burnout at work.

In December 2023, the European Parliament adopted a report on mental health that calls for the European Commission to propose a Directive on psychosocial risks and wellbeing at work, with a focus on primary prevention and collective measures regarding work organisation.

Further to supporting an EU Directive on work-related psychosocial risks, ESMO recommendations to tackle the situation include an increased focus on, and investment in, workforce retention measures, the reinforcement, of a major magnitude, of training and career development programmes for young oncologists, and the development of dedicated strategies and resources to help secure manageable workloads within congenial working environments.

ESMO will continue to contribute actively to the discussions regarding the healthcare workforce in the EU. Globally, the 2017 Cancer Resolution – whose implementation ESMO is supporting via a multiannual workplan with the World Health Organisation (WHO) -mandated the WHO to develop tools to support governments to strengthen the health workforce and health system capacity for cancer. To this end, ESMO supports the development and implementation of the WHO Health Workforce Optimization for Cancer Care tool.

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