Cross-border mobility of health professionals

Managing trade-offs between efficiency and ethics


Dr. Matthias Wismar, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (Belgium)


The free mobility of workers in the European Economic Area (EEA) guarantees free cross-border mobility of health professionals. Through the automatic procedure for the so-called regulated professions (doctors, nurses, midwifes, pharmacists), working in another EEA country has become relatively simple. According to OECD, cross-border mobility of health professionals has constantly increased. But the magnitude and directions of cross-border mobility have changed following major geo-political and economic events including two waves of EU accession, the financial and economic crisis and Brexit.

The EEA has created a huge labour market for health professionals which should be more efficient than smaller fragmented labour markets. In theory, countries, systems and individuals should gain. But does this labour market really pay out? Are countries, health systems and individual professions really better off? What are the effects on sending and receiving countries? Are there trade-offs between efficiency and equity between markets, patients and professionals? And what can we do in terms of better managing health professional mobility.

This presentation reviewed the legal context of health professional mobility in the EEA. It provided an overview of the magnitude and directions of mobility. It also presented a framework for assessing effects on countries, systems, organizations and individuals and discussed impacts with regards to the following topics: brain drain, maldistribution and recruitment; workforce planning; continuous medical and professional development; quality and safety; knowledge transfer and career pathways. Inevitably, the presentation also discussed Brexit matters.

International Seminar


International seminar
2017-06-20 - 2016-06-20


European Centre