Action is needed now to ensure healthcare system holds up: SER

A doctor checking the pulse of a patient on an infusion

The government must undertake a careful review of what basic health insurance covers in an effort to keep healthcare affordable, the Social and Economic Council  said on Friday.

In particular, coverage should be reviewed when new items are added to the basic package, SER said in a new report, commissioned two years ago by the health ministry.

‘We will need all hands on deck to be able to continue to offer everyone healthcare,’ SER chairwoman Mariëtte Hamer said. ‘The position of healthcare professionals needs to be strengthened, prevention needs to be upped and we should keep a critical eye on what is covered by insurance and what is not.’

Dutch spending on healthcare is currently some €87bn a year, but is forecast to rise to €174bn in 20 years time.

The SER report also shows how the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure more people are recruited to work in healthcare, particularly in nursing.

Its own figures suggest the shortage of workers may be as much as 80,000 in 18 months time and could increase to 700,000 by 2040.

‘But these are abstract figures. The coronavirus has made these shortages visible,’ Hamer said. This is not only the case for nursing staff but also in the fear of how to cope when there are more patients than beds, she said.

Red tape

In order to encourage more people to take up jobs in healthcare, more should be done to make the profession attractive, red tape should be slashed and rosters should better dovetail to meet school and childcare requirements, SER said.

The rise in self-employment in the sector – freelancers now account for some 121,000 healthcare jobs – should also be looked at to make sure the self-employed and staffers are treated equally.

The use of technology, including a digital patients record system, should also be maximised, SER said.

Not sustainable

The health ministry said in a reaction that the recommendations point the way forward to clear solutions to problems facing the Dutch health service. ‘The way healthcare is currently organised is not sustainable,’ the ministry said.

The ministry said it hoped to send a white paper outlining its position on healthcare reforms to parliament in the autumn.

SER, the government’s most senior advisory board, is made up of employer, union and lay members.

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