Continuing professional development and life-long learning

EPSU (European Federation of Public Service Unions) and HOSPEEM (European Hospital and Healthcare Employers’ Association) organised a two-day Conference on Continuing Professional Development in Amsterdam, on 19-20 June, with the theme: “Working together, learning together – Switching to the learning mode.”

The event brought together about 100 participants from 18 EU Member States and four non-EU countries. These were: health unions’ leaders, hospital and healthcare employers and managements’ representatives, and researchers. It was an opportunity to build on the robust process of social dialogue that had resulted in the HOSPEEM-EPSU Joint Declaration on Continuing Professional Development and Life-Long Learning (LLL) for All Health Workers in the EU, adopted in November 2016.

HOSPEEM and EPSU as social partners have reached an understanding of the critical importance of continuing professional development (CPD) for maintaining and improving the quality of service and patient safety in the European health sector. The conference provided an opportunity to share experiences shaped by the context of different national specificities of legal and regulatory frameworks, in designing and implementing CPD systems. 

Participants held discussions and debates on HOSPEEM-EPSU collaboration in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. They were able to better appreciate that social dialogue can be a point of departure for policy reforms that help strengthen commitments of States and employers to CPD and LLL.

Inputs from researchers and civil society organisations at the plenary sessions and in the four thematic breakout discussion groups contributed significantly to the learning process of the conference. The conference methodology prioritised drawing from the expertise of everybody present, who had all played leadership roles as workers’ representatives, top management personnel, government functionaries or academics in fostering better understanding and more effective implementation of CPD and LLL.

The issues taken up in different sessions, based on this methodology, included: developing strategies that would ensure sustainable models of financing of CPD for all types of health workers; identifying best means for making CPD available for all health workers in an equal manner across all age groups, occupational groups, working patterns and all types of contracts; understanding how social partners could give better access to groups often under-represented in CPD and LLL, such as health workers aged 45+, part-time workers or workers with lower formal qualifications (mainly health care support staff).

Participants also discussed: developing models of CPD to use to support increasing demands of working in teams, which bring together different health professions, with a vibrant sense of team spirit; optimally organising CPD on the backdrop of an increasing digitalisation of health care services (e-health; m-health; telemedicine); building CPD as a key element into team and personal development planning and organisational development strategies; how to develop a partnership approach in designing, organising, implementing and assessing CPD policies and tools at national, sectoral and enterprise level.

The conference was an activity within the framework of the HOSPEEM-EPSU EU-funded project “Promoting effective recruitment and retention policies for health workers in the EU by ensuring access to CPD and healthy and safe workplaces supportive of patient safety and quality care” (2017-2018), and a contribution of the hospital and healthcare sector social partners to the 2016-2017 EU-OSHA Campaign ”Healthy Workplaces For All Ages”.

It has helped to identify successful approaches, instruments and formats of CPD, from the perspectives of both management and workers with a synergistic approach. The conference report and conclusions will be published by the end of 2017, and will no doubt positively contribute to shaping the future work of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for the Hospital Sector on CPD. It will also serve as a model of how more could be done towards ensuring health for all on a solid base of social dialogue.

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This article is an extract from the “Right to Health” newsletter issue 03/2017. Subscribe to the newsletter. Send us your stories.