Ageing workforce in hospitals – a European exchange of experiences on solution strategies and models of good practice in handling the demographic challenge at the enterprise and regional level - ABiK

Background: Almost 9 % of the EU’s working population – around 21 million people - is active in the health and social sector. In many Member States, the proportion of older workers is already high today and it will dramatically increase in the coming years in particular in countries with below-average birth rates. Even so there are big differences in the demographic development of certain regions of the EU, the following two factors determine significantly the overall trend:

•    A relatively low birth rate, which in most of the Member States is still lower than the European average of 1.5,
•    An increasing life expectancy, which on current forecasts will rise until 2050 for a further 4 or 5 years.
The consequences of the ageing societies in the EU are serious and affect many social fields such as labour market, economy or services of general interest, healthcare and pension system. The healthcare system will suffer a double blow: because of the ageing workforce and, as forecast, an increasing number of patients.

Political and economic players as well as social partners throughout Europe have begun dealing with the consequences of the demographic change. This is also a topic being discussed in the European social dialogue in the hospital and healthcare sector. In 2013, a common approach has been agreed. The objective is to support social partners as well as decision-makers at local and sectoral level, employees and employers in their work focussed on addressing challenges related to the ageing healthcare workforce. Some social partners in the health sector of various European countries have developed a multiplicity of ideas and projects on sustainable management of the demographic problem. This project aims to implement the recommendations and guidelines of EPSU and HOSPEEM commonly agreed between the social partners of the European sectoral social dialogue in the hospital and healthcare sector of the project countries and regions Germany (Federal State of Lower Saxony), Netherlands, Hungary, Serbia and the United Kingdom. The European social dialogue 'Hospital and Healthcare' has agreed in the common working plan to produce a report at the end of 2016 about developments in discussion and practice on the subject “ageing workforce” and which role the social partners in the different countries have played in this context. This project will contribute to increase the effect of the Agreement and strengthen the role of the social partners. This development would in turn represent a positive feedback to the work of the European social dialogue 'Hospital and Healthcare. In this way, synergies can be created in the medium term, which will support the realisation of the priorities of ‘Europe 2020 Strategy’, as well as its associated flagship initiatives.
The trade union Ver.di represents the interests of the employees in hospitals and the healthcare sector and is one of the largest members of the EPSU. In Lower Saxony, the social dialogue in the hospital sector is well-developed. A specific European exchange on problem-solving strategies and examples of good practice between employees in similar operational structures (hospitals) will result in practical learning results and synergy effects for all project participants. This in turn benefits the employees in Lower Saxony, the European partner countries and the work of the European social dialogue 'Hospital and Healthcare'.
This project will focus on three questions:
•    Occupational health management: How can we design the different workplaces in hospitals appropriate to ageing employees and how can be improved the awareness of employees of the need to look after one's own health (structural and behavioural prevention)? Which positive examples exist in the different countries? How can they be adapted?
•    'Healthy' management: Occupational health management can only be successful if it is supported at all management levels by appropriate management concepts. Which management concepts have proved as being particularly successful in practice? How do these concepts have to be structured so that they could be transferred to other countries (business cultures)?