The EFN welcomes the European Commission European Care Strategy

The European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN) welcomes the new European Commission’s initiative - European Care Strategy, launched on 7 September, accompanied by two Recommendations for Member States on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care, and on access to affordable high-quality long-term care, which will hopefully respond to the challenges of ageing and rising unmet care needs in the EU and Europe.

Ensuring people’s access to quality and affordable care throughout their lives should be the common aim of the strategy, which will require a coordinated effort. This initiative announces EU-level action to strengthen long-term care and early childhood education and care, as envisaged under the European pillar of social rights. It will help strengthen gender equality and social fairness, highlighting the need for high-quality, accessible and affordable care services for children and people who need long-term care.

Nurses play a fundamental and indispensable role in the provision of health and social care, in particular in prevention and long-term care. As such, nurses will be key partners in the implementation of this strategy. In a constantly changing society, nurses can achieve optimal health outcomes. Investing in care is important to attract and retain healthcare professionals in the care sector, often characterised by difficult working conditions, low wages and shortages. It is therefore crucial to invest in the retraining of the nursing workforce and in education, especially as part of the continuous development of the European Care Strategy. Investing in high-quality care also means improving gender equality. For the nurses, with 92% of the workforce being women, this is key.

Announced by the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in her 2021 State of the Union address, and confirmed in the Commission Work Programme 2022, this initiative that aims to support women and men in finding the best care and work life balance for carers, will require that the EU Member States inform the European Commission on measures to implement the Recommendations one year after adoption. For each Recommendation, the European Commission will publish an in-depth report within five years to give an overview of the state of play of its implementation. The European Commission will also continue monitoring the policy developments through the European Semester and supporting reforms and investment through available EU funding.

The EFN would like to congratulate the European Commission and in particular Commissioner Schmit, DG Employment, and his cabinet, for all their hard work to deliver this strategy. This is a key outcome for the EU nurses who have been working closely with Commissioner Schmit on this, bringing to the debate the nurses’ views and expertise. Nicolas Schmit said: “The European Care Strategy is about putting people first”, and this is what he did with the nurses all along COVID-19 pandemic – be close to the nurses and hear what they had to say in this very difficult period, through meetings with EFN and its members.

“We have all recognised over the last two years how important the role of nurses is in our health systems and in our society. We have talked a lot about a more resilient society and nurses are playing a fundamental role in this resilience of our societies. Nurses have shown terrific commitment beyond sometimes unimaginable situations in order to maintain the care system and wider health system, through their dedication under unprecedented challenges and extreme stress. We should not forget this”, Commissioner Schmit,
EFN April 2022 General Assembly.

“We are going through major changes in our society, for example, changing technology. Therefore, the upskilling and reskilling of nurses are key. The changing role of nurses in our healthcare system is at utmost importance. It is a profession that is undergoing profound changes and we have to take this on board, we have to invest more in their skilling and upskilling, and in their working conditions”, Commissioner Schmit,
EFN April 2022 General Assembly.