Today the European Cancer Organisation published a consensus paper conveying the critical challenges for the cancer workforce in the context of implementing Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.  The report, ‘Working Against Cancer: Giving Professionals the Right Tools for the Job’, sets out clear, pragmatic and achievable recommendations, that are immediately available, and that will bring about improvement including:

  • Addressing the exposure of healthcare workers to cytotoxic products through coverage under the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive and that specific attention is given to tackling exposure of healthcare professionals to cytotoxic products in this context.;
  • Stronger EU legislation that specifically protects healthcare workers from the reprotoxic effects of these agents, with a particular attention to pregnant and breast-feeding workers, preventing any harm to men and women of childbearing age as well as to their offspring; 
  • EU-OSHA should take a leading role in promoting uptake of such relevant best practices that minimise the exposure of cancer workers to cytotoxic drugs and other hazardous chemicals;
  • The creation of a separate DG EMPL led initiative to address pan-European skills shortage in the cancer sector, such as a cancer ‘pact for skills’; 
  • the European Union and its Member States to recognise and address the issue of errors and adverse events in cancer, as well as their consequences for involved professionals;
  • An EU agenda on patient safety should be developed, involving all relevant services of the European Commission, including DG SANTE (health systems), DG EMPL (occupational health and safety), DG GROW (patient safety inclusion with recognised healthcare professional curricula), DG Connect and DG Research. 
  • EU patient safety agenda should encompass guidance and recommendations to Member States on the establishment of strong patient safety cultures, which encourage reporting of errors and adverse events, the provision of adequate digital systems that can help prevent such incidents, and the support to be provided to “second victims”, healthcare professionals involved in adverse incidents and errors.