Changing health professional roles across Europe studied

Researchers are to look at how the roles of health professionals across Europe have changed and extended to meet today’s healthcare needs.

Findings from the study led by the University of Aberdeen and involving eight other UK and international collaborators will help inform European health policymakers so that they can make the best use of resources.

Professor Christine Bond, Head of the University’s Centre of Academic Practice and Primary Care, is co-leading the research. She said: “European countries are reforming their health systems to improve healthcare delivery and to meet changing healthcare needs and expectations.

“One of the ways they are doing this is by changing the skill mix within teams delivering health services - extending the roles of existing health professions and introducing new ones.

“These extended roles can be seen in the UK where pharmacists and nurses are now prescribing, a role that used to be the sole responsibility of a doctor. Meanwhile in Holland healthcare is making great use of physician assistants which are a fairly recent post in the UK.”

Professor Bob Elliot, Director of the University’s Health Economics Research Unit, and Principal Investigator on the study, added: “This project will evaluate the impact of these ‘new’ professional roles on practice, outcomes and costs in a range of different health care settings within European Union and associate countries.

“We will examine the nature, scope and contribution of these new professional roles; evaluate their impact on clinical practice and outcomes, and see whether they can be better integrated into care.

“We will also look at cost effectiveness of the new professional roles; identify optimal models for delivery of health care and the consequences of these for management of human resources and workforce planning.”

Researchers will use a variety of methods to gather information including interviewing health professionals, managers and patients and case studies in locations where new professional roles are employed.

The €3M Euros project has been funded by the European Commission and will run for four years. It will also involve NHS Grampian and partners in Manchester, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Turkey and Poland.