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Innovation to safeguard sustainability of cancer care (EFPIA Guest Blog)


s a follow up to the Innovation for Sustainable Cancer Care report developed in 2022, a European multi-stakeholder Sounding Board of cancer organizations is continuing its works towards understanding how innovation can help tackle workforce shortages. This blog was written by Rene Medema (Dutch Cancer Institute) on behalf of the Sounding Board.






Europe’s oncology workforce shortage will put patients at risk unless urgent action is taken to make cancer care more sustainable.


European countries have made great progress in oncology care over recent decades. However, pressure on services threatens to make care inaccessible to some who need it. Action is needed now to avert a major crisis.

The problem, in short, is that Europe’s cancer care needs are growing faster than the healthcare workforce. It is estimated that by 2030, Europe will face a shortage of 4.1 million healthcare workers. At the same time, the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to rise.

There are three root causes of the gap between Europeans’ care needs and the capacity of oncology care systems to deliver.

  1. More cases: Demographic factors, including population growth and ageing, are expected to lead to millions of additional cases in the coming years. In addition, technological advances are enabling early diagnosis of cancer – offering new opportunities for timely intervention but growing the total number of cancer patients.
  2. Greater complexity: Treating people with cancer has become increasingly multidisciplinary and personalised. This, along with higher administrative burdens on healthcare workers, is adding to the pressure on the healthcare workforce.
  3. Fewer workers per patient: Healthcare workforce numbers are stagnating and are set to decline in some EU Member States. An estimated 40% of medical doctors in one third of European countries are close to retirement age. Burnout, long working hours, and unattractive wages for nurses, are prompting experienced staff to leave the healthcare sector and discouraging recruitment of new professionals.





This is simply unsustainable. It will result in people waiting longer to be treated which, for some, will mean poorer outcomes. For doctors and nurses, it will mean less time to spend with each patient, adding intense pressure and reducing job satisfaction. Recruitment and retention of key oncology staff will become more challenging.

It is time for some fresh thinking to address this challenge: decreasing demand for oncology, increasing service efficiency, and growing the number of oncology professionals. To do this, innovation is vital.

There are some encouraging signs that Europe is taking this challenge seriously. We are pleased to see Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan advance a series of measures designed to prevent cancer, to make health systems more resilient, and to address inequalities. Other initiatives, including the Electronic Health Data Space, have the potential to make systems more efficient. And, after the strain posed by the pandemic, there is a renewed focus on healthcare wellbeing.

More can be done. Europe must prioritise the uptake of innovation in all its forms: investment in research, digital health, access to screening, new approaches to care delivery – anything that improves health outcomes, patient experiences and efficiencies.

To play our part, we are working together with a Sounding Board consisting of more than 20 stakeholders, bringing together the cancer community, including patients, healthcare policymakers, leading physicians, healthcare providers and payers. Together we are building a report collecting 10 relevant case studies that help address the gap between cancer needs and cancer care. This will help to identify barriers to the adoption of innovation at scale and provide inspiring examples of how services can be reinvented to make them more sustainable. We look forward to sharing the results of this work and to highlighting solutions to the cancer care challenge.