Report from Standing Committee Health and Social Services

(20 October 2017)

A first reflection on the priorities for EPSU’s future work in the field of health and social services for the time after EPSU's Congress from 4 to 7 June 2019 in Dublin was one of the items on the agenda of the "Standing Committee Health and Social Services" that met on 21 September 2017 in Brussels. Affiliates exchanged initial ideas about areas of work EPSU should focus on, based on existing work - see EPSU's Work Programme SC HSS 2015-2016 and EPSU's Thematic Priorities Social Services 2015-2016 - and looking at the future of health and social services in a changing Europe. Colleagues supported the idea to keep a focus on four to five main topics, including mandated safe and effective staffing levels, the prevention and reduction of health and safety risks in relation to injuries with medical sharps, to musculoskeletal disorders and to psychosocial risks and stress at the workplace and continuing professional development in a context of new models of the provision of health and social services. The fight against unfair and indecent working conditions - also as a consequence of the privatisation of health and social services - and addressing the challenges and opportunities of a digitalisation and robotisation of health and social care were identified as additional fields of work and joint action of EPSU and its affiliates.

About 55 participants from 23 countries and 42 EPSU members dealt with a range of other topics, too. The most important issues on the agenda and decisions or policy orientations taken were:

  • “Safe and adequate staffing levels”: Colleagues from UNISON, United Kingdom, CFDT Santé Services Sociaux, France (see their presentation in FR: L’enquête CFDT parlons effectifs: "On est combien aujourd’hui ?"), and ver.di, Germany, shared information on recent activities to promote or achieve binding and enforceable safe and effective staffing levels in health care services. The British and French presentation focused on the results of surveys done with own members (see UNISON Report "Ratio Not Rationing" and CFDT Santé Services Sociaux Report "Parlons Effectifs") whereas the German input also made the link to trade union work towards collective agreeements to reduce the workload and the political mobilisation to obtain national legislation on mandated staffing levels. From these contributions and additional updates given by other colleagues, e.g. from Finland (Tehy) - or after the meeting from the United Kingdom (cf. RCN Report: "Safe and Effective Staffing: The Real Picture") -, it became clear that mobilisation to get more and well trained personnel and to reduce stress and workloads for those working in health and social care has gained a momentum across Europe. Together with many trade unions in Europe, EPSU works to put the well-being of workers and patients centre-stage. The colleagues concluded that “There is power in a union“ to achieve mandatory staffing levels in health and social care, a topic which has become in the last about two years one key priority for EPSU's health and social care sector. This is summarised in and illustrated by the presentation Mathias Maucher, EPSU Secretariat, had given at the EPSU Executive Committee on 6 April 2017 in Brussels, entitled "Summary Info: EPSU’s Ongoing Work on Safe and Effective Staffing Levels for Health Care and Social Services". The report of the joint ver.di-EPSU Workshop “Safe and adequate staffing in international comparison” held on 16 November 2016 in Berlin (in DE, with summary in EN, pp. 38-40, and FR, pp. 41-44) was also introduced and distributed. The participants agreed for EPSU to build up in the months to come an "Online Platform on Safe and Effective Staffing" as a source of information for EPSU members to support the mutual exchange on how they have worked on or addressed this topic, which (main) objectives they have pursued, which instruments they have used and what they could already achieve so far (“success stories”).
  • The session on the sectoral social dialogue in the hospital/health care sector covered two main topics. They are framed by the joint EPSU-HOSPEEM Project (2017-2018) “Promoting effective recruitment and retention policies for all health workers in the EU by ensuring access to continuing professional development and healthy and safe workplaces supportive of patient safety and quality care”: The first topic is Continuing professional development (CPD): Following up to the HOSPEEM-EPSU Conference "Working together, learning together - Switching to the learning mode" organised on 19 and 20 June 2017 in Amsterdam the colleagues exchanged on EPSU priorities in the field of CPD and discussed possible joint action points for the ongoing thematic work with HOSPEEM. Colleagues also exchanged on possible thematic priorities and objectives for EPSU for the conference on the prevention, management and reduction of muscular-skeletal disorders (MSD) and psycho-social risks at the workplace (PSRS@W) held on 23 and 24 May 2018 in Vilnius. Building on the "Summary Document" (available in EN, FR, DE, ES, RU and SV) from an earlier project, they also discussed possible action points or future initiatives on MSD and PSRS@W with HOSPEEM.
  • The EPSU Secretariat recalled that three documents published on 10 January 2017 – the Communication (2017) 12, the EC evaluation and EC proposals for EU legislative and policy initiatives in the field of occupational health and safety (OSH) and a guide for employers – make up for the European Commission framework for legislative and technical initiatives on the prevention, management and reduction of health and safety risks at the workplace for the next years to come.
  • Penny Clarke, EPSU Deputy General Secretary, informed the colleagues about the state of play of the work of the European Parliament on the legislative proposal for a Directive on a proportionality test before adoption of new regulation of professions, issued by the European Commission on 20 January 2017. She explained EPSU’s related policy priorities and demands as well as EPSU's lobbying activities, also in coordination and large agreement with other professional organisations for health workers such as EMA, CPME, CDE and PGEU and with the support of HOSPEEM on EPSU's key demand, the exclusion of health professions from this proposal for a new directive. Colleagues supported the main lines and requests as elaborated on by EPSU and as further explained in the EPSU Briefing including suggested amendments to the IMCO Report (of 16 June 2016) and a letter addressed to the MEPs members of the IMCO Committee (dated 9 October 2017).
  • Summary information on the main topics and outcomes of the EPSU Working Group “Social Services” organised on 20 September 2017 was given, covering the following five issues: 1) EU-level initiatives to push the de-institutionalisation of elderly, disability and child care, 2) trade union work in the context of privatisation, marketisation and commercialisation of social services, 3) EPSU’s work with affiliates and with other civil society organisations to promote socially-responsible public procurement, 4) EU-level initiatives by CEN for EU-level standardisation/technical standards in health and elderly care services and 5) Promotion of social dialogue in social services. Activities with a number of affiliates to explore their interest in setting up European Work Councils in the field of health and social services have recently well advanced. Two meetings were held in Brussels with colleagues from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, the first on ORPEA on 4 and 5 May 2017, the second on KORIAN on 5 and 6 September 2017.
  • Baba Aye, PSI Policy Officer "Health and Social Services" gave updates on three topics, on 1) the PSI Human Right to Health Campaign, 2) the ILO Tripartite Sectoral Meeting “Improvement of Employment and Working Conditions in Health Services” which took place from 24 to 28 April 2017 in Geneva and 3) the PSI 30th World Congress to be held from 31 October 2017 to 3 November 2017 in Geneva. For the last issue he presented the relevant parts for workers in health and social services and trade unions organising them in the PSI Programme of Action 2018-2022 whereas for the first topic he informed about progress made with the PSI Campaign “Human Right to Health” in the context of which the 3rd Newsletter was recently issued.