On 9 October, the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of adopting a modernised Professional Qualifications Directive (DIR36), which introduces new rules including more stringent requirements to be met by mobile health professionals in order to safeguard patient safety, and a simplified administrative procedure for swifter mutual recognition of professional qualifications between Member States.
The modernisation of DIR36 was one of twelve key actions identified by Commissioner Michel Barnier to reinvigorate the EU Single Market and enable more professional mobility. In a memo, Barnier thanked Rapporteur Bernadette Vergnaud and the shadow rapporteurs for their commitment and willingness to compromise.
Following successful trilogue negotiations, the EP voted in favour of provisions such as stricter language controls - which has been a hotly debated in major receiving countries, e.g. the UK - and updated standards for nurse education. Moreover, a mandatory alert mechanism is put into place for health regulators to inform each other if professionals are banned or restricted from practice in their country to avoid that they simply pack their bags and work elsewhere.
Moreover, the introduction of a professional card - taking the form of an electronic certificate to be supplied on a voluntary basis - will allow faster and easier recognition for those professions interested in taking up this option.
Basic medical and dental training requires now a minimum of 5 years of practical and theoretical studies. The minimum requirement for entering nursing and midwifery training is either 12 or 10 years of school education, however a number of additional key competenceswill need to be acquired during training. For Romanian nurses, bridging courses will be introduced via the ESF.
The EP vote was welcomed by EPHA members including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) whose Press Release underlines the importance of the Directive in helping to promote high professional standards, maintain patient safety and quality of care.
A number of points will however still need to be clarified, including the following issues:
1) What is the scope for emerging health professions to take advantage of the Common Training Frameworks? Given that many professionals working, e.g. in the field of Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM) are subject to different legal regimes across Europe (i.e., regulated vs. unregulated), and Common Training Frameworks are exclusively available to regulated professions, it is likely to remain difficult for many CAM practitioners to benefit from intra-European mobility as it will require one third of Member States to set up a CTF. This begs the question as to what role there is for Europe in helping to bring about more harmonisation in emerging health professions wishing to contribute to public health objectives such as prevention and health promotion.
2) What will be the practical implications of the new rules at national level, and what about the costs? It will be particularly important to monitor the implementation of the modernised DIR36 to ensure that rules are interpreted correctly and fairly across Europe.
EPHA was pleased to learn that the priorities identified in its Position on the Professional Qualifications Directive were translated into workable compromises.
EPHA related articles