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WHO calls on greater investment into nurses

Today marks World Health Day, the International Year of nurses and midwives, and reminds world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy.

The World Health Organisation celebrates nurses and other health workers who are at the forefront of Covid-19 response - “providing high quality, respectful treatment and care, leading community dialogue to address fears and questions and, in some instances, collecting data for clinical studies.”

“Quite simply, without nurses, there would be no response,” WHO said.

This year is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and World Health Day will highlight the current status of nursing and around the world.

WHO and its partners will today make a series of recommendations to strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce.
“This will be vital if we are to achieve national and global targets related to universal health coverage, maternal and child health, infectious and non-communicable diseases including mental health, emergency preparedness and response, patient safety and the delivery of integrated, people-centered care, amongst others,” WHO said.

“We are calling for your support on World Health Day to ensure that the nursing and midwifery workforces are strong enough to ensure that everyone, everywhere gets the healthcare they need.”

“The tagline for World Health Day is: Support nurses and midwives.”

Nursing Report
WHO announced that it would today launch the first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020.

The report will provide a global picture of the nursing workforce and support evidence-based planning to optimise the contributions of this workforce to improve health and wellbeing for all. The report will set the agenda for data collection, policy dialogue, research and advocacy, and investment in the health workforce for generations to come.

A similar report on the Midwifery workforce will be launched in 2021.

“The Covid-19 pandemic underscores the urgent need to strengthen the global health workforce,” WHO said.

“A new report, The State of the World’s Nursing 2020, provides an in-depth look at the largest component of the health workforce. Findings identify important gaps in the nursing workforce and priority areas for investment in nursing education, jobs, and leadership to strengthen nursing around the world and improve health for all.”

The statement added: “Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, providing vital services throughout the health system. Historically, as well as today, nurses are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics that threaten health across the globe. Around the world they are demonstrating their compassion, bravery and courage as they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic: never before has their value been more clearly demonstrated.”
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called nurses the “backbone” of any health system.

“Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.

“This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.”

The report, by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now, reveals that today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide.

Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million - with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.
More than 80 per cent of the world’s nurses work in countries that are home to half of the world’s population, WHO said, and one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained.
Ageing also threatens the nursing workforce: one out of six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years.
To avert the global shortage, the report estimates that countries experiencing shortages need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average 8% per year, along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system.
“Politicians understand the cost of educating and maintaining a professional nursing workforce, but only now are many of them recognizing their true value,” said ICN President Annette Kennedy. “Every penny invested in nursing raises the wellbeing of people and families in tangible ways that are clear for everyone to see. This report highlights the nursing contribution and confirms that investment in the nursing profession is a benefit to society, not a cost. The world needs millions more nurses, and we are calling on governments to do the right thing, invest in this wonderful profession and watch their populations benefit from the amazing work that only nurses can do.”
About 90% of all nurses are female, yet few nurses are found in senior health leadership positions-- the bulk of those positions are held by men, WHO said.

It added when countries enable nurses to take a leadership role, for example by having a government chief nursing officer (or equivalent), and nursing leadership programmes, conditions for nurses improve.

“This report places much-needed data and evidence behind calls to strengthen nursing leadership, advance nursing practice, and educate the nursing workforce for the future,” said Lord Nigel Crisp, Co-Chair of Nursing Now.

“The policy options reflect actions we believe all countries can take over the next ten years to ensure there are enough nurses in all countries, and that nurses use of the full extent of their education, training, and professional scope to enhance primary health care delivery and respond to health emergencies such as Covid-19.

This must start with broad and intersectoral dialogue which positions the nursing evidence in the context of a country’s health system, health workforce, and health priorities.”