International Nurses’ Day 2024: Nurses need action, not austerity!

EPSU Nurses day 12 May 2024

(8 May 2024) EPSU Statement on International Nurses Day 12 May 2024

On Sunday, 12 May, we celebrate International Nurses Day. This is but one occasion to thank our comrades for their immense contributions to society. Equally, it’s an important moment to remind policymakers on both European and national levels of their promises and commitments to nurses and all health and care professionals.

Policymakers must show they have learned lessons from the pandemic and develop policies to address staff shortages. EPSU’s calls to tackle staff shortages have been increasingly reflected in various initiatives, such as the European region of the World Health Organization, the OECD health ministers’ Declaration on Building Better Policies for More Resilient Health Systems, the EU Action Plan to tackle labour and skills shortages, and the Belgian Presidency of the EU’s forthcoming Council recommendations on the European Health Union. The implementation of these initiatives will undoubtedly require more expenditure on the sector to recruit more nurses and improve working conditions.

From strategies to address staff shortages to austerity measures to worsen them

However, on Tuesday, 23 April, the European Parliament voted in favour of 'new fiscal rules' which mean that EU Member States will need to cut their budgets by over 100 billion Euro a year from 2025 or raise the equivalent amount by their own resources. These measures mean that many countries will potentially have to cut nurses and other care workers, further contributing to workforce shortages in the sector. This is counter-productive and will confuse many nurses, to whom governments made promises to improve their working conditions. It also obstructs the implementation of the aforementioned initiatives. To that end, Member States must exclude public services such as the health and care sectors from any austerity measures and instead invest.

Nurses are vital to making the sector more resilient

The sector will also need investment not only to address staff shortages but also to implement costly digital and green technologies to make it more resilient.

Furthermore, long-term investments are needed to provide universal access to health care and reverse growing health deserts. European and national policymakers need to recognise that health is not a commodity and only an adequately staffed and well-equipped sector can protect us from future emergencies including pandemics or conflicts.

For the statement of PSI