Harnessing the full potential of nurses and midwives will be essential in ending health inequalities around the world, global leaders have urged.
They called for nurses and midwives to play a “far greater” role in primary care, managing chronic diseases and promoting public health messages to prevent diseases or detect them earlier.
“Governments must see jobs for nurses and midwives not as a cost, but as an investment in sustainable development”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Governments must invest in their nursing and midwifery workforces if they wanted to create a system in which all their citizens could access health care without falling into financial hardship – known as universal health coverage (UHC), they added.
These are the key findings of a new report (see PDF attached) by the World Innovation Summit for Health Nursing and UHC 2020 Forum 2018.
The authors argued that unless nursing and midwifery was rapidly expanded and developed, there was no possibility of achieving the World Health Assembly goal of one billion more people benefiting from UHC in five years’ time.
In a foreword to the report, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, highlighted that half of the world’s population currently lacked access to essential health services, and almost 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty every year by the costs of paying for care.
At the same time, the world was facing a shortfall of 18m health workers needed to deliver UHC by 2030 – more than half of whom were nurses and midwives, Dr Tedros said.
He added: “I encourage all countries to engage in policy dialogue around investment in the nursing and midwifery workforce as a means of strengthening people-centered care, creating quality employment opportunities for women and youth, and achieving UHC.
Global campaign to launch to raise nursing’s status
Source: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development
“Governments must see jobs for nurses and midwives not as a cost, but as an investment in sustainable development,” Dr Tedros said.
“Nurses and midwives are not only essential for delivering health services; their experience and knowledge are also valuable assets in shaping health policy, and their voices deserve to be heard at the policymaking table,” he added.
The report recommended that national governments redesign services and workforce strategies to maximise the contribution of nurses and midwives and enable them to “work at the top of their license”.
As part of this transformation, authors said nurse-based and nurse-led services should be made the “norm” for the management of most noncommunicable diseases.
Nurses and midwives should take a leading and, in some cases, the leading role in primary care, the report urged.
They should also play a stronger part in the promotion of health and wellbeing, including disease prevention and early detection, it added.
“Current global policy on UHC barely mentions the health workforce, let alone nursing and midwifery”
Professor Sharon Brownie
The document highlighted the need for governments to invest in all aspects of nursing and midwifery – from education to recruitment and retention, and ensure sufficient infrastructure and technology was in place to help nurses and midwives to expand their roles.
Legislation and regulation should be altered to support nurses and midwives to achieve their full potential, the report said.
As part of the report, a YouGov survey was conducted with 6,458 people across seven countries to gauge public perception of nurses providing services.
In every country, more than 60% of respondents said they would be happy to have nurses treating them for non-life-threatening conditions, as long as they had the appropriate standards of education, training, skills and experience.
An even larger majority of voters said they valued nurses and doctors as equally important members of the healthcare team.
“These results suggest that there would be widespread public support for nurses making an even greater contribution to healthcare in the future,” the report said.
The document builds on the progress made by the Nursing Now campaign, which aims to empower nurses worldwide and has generated support in 67 countries since its launch in February.
The new report is co-authored by Lord Nigel Crisp, co-chair of Nursing Now; Professor Sharon Brownie, dean of the School of Nursing at The Aga Khan University; and Dr Charlotte Refsum, a doctor and global health clinical manager with KPMG UK.
Global campaign to launch to raise nursing’s status
Commenting on the report, Professor Brownie said: “Current global policy on UHC barely mentions the health workforce, let alone nursing and midwifery. There would be a profound effect on how quickly and effectively UHC could be rolled out if a significant part of the workforce were enabled to work more effectively or to take on new roles.”
Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses and commissioner on the WHO high-level commission for noncommunicable diseases, said the ICN supported the recommendations of the report and called for investment in nursing and midwifery to improve UHC.