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ESMO Supports the New Framework for Health and Care Workforce in WHO European Region 2023-2030

Dedicated efforts urgently needed to optimize the workforce for cancer care and improved well-being of medical oncologists in the 53 WHO Europe Member States
26 Oct 2023

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) welcomes the WHO Europe resolution that urges the Member States to implement the new framework for action on the health and care workforce 2023-2030. ESMO – one of the leading professional organisations for medical oncology with over 33,000 members in 170 countries, extends its support to this pivotal development towards strengthening healthcare services in the Region.

The Framework for action – adopted at the 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe on 26th October 2023, in Astana, Kazakhstan – addresses the pressing need to enhance healthcare workforce resources. If implemented successfully, it will also contribute to a reduction of the challenges posed by the rising incidence of cancer and non-communicable diseases.

With an estimated 1 in 5 people prone to develop cancer during their lifetime and no significant improvements in NCD service coverage since 2015, the demand for specialised cancer doctors has reached a critical juncture. This demand has been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, as revealed by the ESMO Resilience Task Force Survey Series. The survey highlights the persistence of increased job demands, concerns over career advancement and job security, and a lack of work-life balance among oncology professionals. In a noteworthy finding, 49% of respondents admitted that they have experienced symptoms of professional burnout, underscoring the urgency of addressing this prevalent issue.

Given these challenges, ESMO underlines the urgency of translating the new resolution into immediate action. Recognising that the well-being of the oncology workforce is paramount to delivering optimal care to patients with cancer, ESMO calls on governments to make significant investments in healthcare workforce development. Key priorities include:

  • Increasing health financing: Allocating additional resources for the recruitment, training, and retention of healthcare professionals to ensure efficient service delivery for all cancer patients.
  • Robust referral systems: Establishing strong referral systems from primary to secondary and tertiary care to enable timely, affordable, and accessible healthcare services. Secondary and tertiary levels of care where patients with cancer are predominantly treated, assumes a vital role in this context.
  • Implementing the ‘Global Health and Care Workers Compact’: Embracing the recommendations outlined in the WHO compact to prevent harm, mitigate psychosocial risks, and provide essential resources while ensuring inclusivity and safeguarding the rights of all health and care workers.

In addition, ESMO reiterates its unwavering dedication to assisting countries in the education and training of medical oncologists. This commitment is realised through the provision of regularly updated resources, exemplified by the Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology.

With its official statement, ESMO commends WHO Europe’s step towards improving healthcare delivery and calls countries to promptly implement the new Framework. The well-being of healthcare professional and access to high-quality care for patients with cancer must remain at the forefront of healthcare policy and action.

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