European Parliament interest group calls for concrete steps to protect healthcare workers' mental health

(4 August 2023) On 11 July 2023 the European Parliament Intensive Care Interest Group (EPIC-IG), adopted a joint declaration on mental health calling on the European Commission and the Member States to take concrete steps to safeguard the mental health of workers in the healthcare sector. The declaration welcomes the Commission’s recently published communication on mental health (see here EPSU press release) and rightly states that greater attention must be paid to the mental health of healthcare workers, particularly those working in intensive care.

According to the EPIC-IG declaration, “Healthcare professionals in general, and intensivists in particular, are among the most affected professions by psychosocial hazards, which not only decreases the attractiveness of their profession and causes retention issues in the health systems across Europe, but also has a direct impact on their private and professional life and thus consequences on their patients, relatives and families. Only healthcare professionals in good mental health can duly take care of patients and their families.”

The declaration echoes EPSU’s long-standing demands to address staff shortages and furthermore calls for the development of a suitable definition of burnout syndrome for healthcare professionals.

These declarations, demands and recommendations mirror the proposal of the European trade union movement to develop a dedicated Directive on Psychosocial Risks Factors, which aims to protect the mental health of workers. EPSU is an active member of the End Stress at Work campaign, led by Eurocadres, and we have been calling for an urgent need to develop a directive through our recent activities including a European health and care workers demonstration on 9 December 2022 where we, among other issues, demanded “an increase in the protection of and funding for occupational health and safety, including against psychosocial risks and post-COVID conditions.”

The critical role played by ICUs during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by Intensive Care professionals has led to the establishment of the EPIC-IG. The group represents a dedicated, separate and specialised space to discuss healthcare policy in the EU and Intensive Care Medicine, which has not previously existed in any form within the European Parliament. The goal is to facilitate dialogue between Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the Intensive Care Medicine community on all matters directly connected to the functioning of Europe’s ICUs and the field of Intensive Care Medicine.