How do we solve a global health-worker shortage?

By 2030, there will be an 18 million person global shortage of health workers. It takes twelve years to train a hospital specialist. We haven’t got long to solve this problem.

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Dr Mark Britnell is the Chairman of Global Healthcare Practice at KPMG, for the last thirty years he has worked in healthcare; including stints as the CEO of University Hospitals Foundation Trust and General Manager of St Mary’s Hospital. Britnell argues that this is not a problem that can be solved linearly, and needs radical and urgent action.

Faced with a shortage of staff in the near future, what is the obvious solution? Spend money on more staff? In the report by KPMG, Britnell’s team argue that this is not effective, nor possible. At least, not only spending money on hiring more people.

Wealth isn’t a health problem. Health boosts wealth. As Hans Rosling, the data scientist, says ‘You’ve got to get healthy before you can get wealthy’. In an experiment conducted by Britnell’s team and independent economists from Cambridge University, they found that for every $1 invested in healthcare in the Caribbean, it equated to $6 in increased productivity. One key question his talk didn’t address was, does this create a net profit when you consider the cost of an ageing population.

Instead, Britnell says that it comes down to productivity. If we can make healthcare work smarter we can rapidly increase productivity and decrease the dependence on hiring new staff.

In Germany, the government pays and trains families and friends to care for their loved ones. This halved the number of hospital admissions. Automation will increase productivity, and those who lose their jobs can be retrained.

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