The 2023 hospital speech:

The Minister of Health and Care Services’ assignment for hospitals in 2023

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Improving mental health and addiction services, less reporting and more time for patients. The Minister of Health and Care Services, Ingvild Kjerkol, today held her annual speech for hospitals, and summarised some of the tasks the hospitals must follow up on over the next year.

After the speech, which was for the first time held at St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, the assignment document for the four regional health authorities was presented in a general meeting. In this document, the Minister of Health and Care Services asked the health authorities to conduct a series of health policy related assignments and achieve the performance goals in 2023.

“This is my second assignment document. In this year’s assignment letter to the hospitals, I have paid particularly close attention to mental health and addiction, on less reporting for specialists so that they can spend more time with patients, and on the reinforcing of competence and innovation,” the Minister of Health and Care Services, Ingvild Kjerkol, said.

Mental health and addiction

Normally, the hospital budget for 2023 would have received a solid increase. However, here as in other sectors, it has been necessary to restructure and introduce measures to deal with the increase in cost and wage growth. The increase in the revised budget for 2022 will help to protect the most vulnerable patient groups. 

“Mental health is a priority for the government. I therefore request that hospitals try and protect the mental health services,” Kjerkol said.

At the same time, the health authorities must always find better ways to run the service, which includes the mental health services.

According to the Office of the Auditor General of Norway’s investigation into mental health services in 2021, several of the managers working in the BUP (the children and young person psychiatric outpatient services) state that they have to deal with a comprehensive system of recording and measuring. Many experience that they are being measured first and foremost on activities and deadlines, and less on the quality of the service on offer. We also know that the workload for the therapists is huge.

“We want specialists in the field to be able to use more of their time with their patients, and less time doing unnecessary reporting. I am therefore requesting that the health authorities review the reporting requirements in the mental health services, and in interdisciplinary specialised addiction treatment,” Kjerkol stated.

The goal is for less reporting to be carried out by therapists and clinicians, and that the reporting that does need doing is useful for the work with patient safety, research, and quality and service development. This will also benefit the patients.

Economy and prioritisation

The health regions must assess whether the economic situation means that any new, larger investment projects and maintenance must be postponed, and whether there is a need to carry out changes in the system in order to ensure an equal specialist healthcare service.

“I ask that the hospitals look at what they can do less of. Among other things, they must look into the variation in the use of laboratory and radiology services, and implement measures to reduce the overuse of these services. They must also reconsider and look at which treatment methods can be phased out,” Kjerkol said.

Recruiting of specialists and improving competence

“Our common healthcare service is good. We know that. But it is a stronghold that must be protected every single day. Retaining the specialists in our hospitals – and recruiting more skilled workers – is an important part of this. The skilled workers in our healthcare services are our most important resource. The regional health authorities must prepare an annual joint report on personnel, competence development and education. The report must include measures and good examples on recruiting, continued development and retaining specialists,” Kjerkol said.

She is committed to ensuring Norway educates the skilled workers we need now and into the future, such that we become less dependent on foreign workers.

“I have asked the regional health authorities to prepare a national overview of the needs of medical specialists, specialist nurses (ABIOK) and midwives going forward. The overview should be seen against the backdrop of professional development, educational capacity and why skilled workers leave the service. I have also asked the health authorities to increase the number of places on educational programmes included in ABIOK and midwife training,” Kjerkol said.

The Healthcare Personnel Commission will present its own report shortly. The mandate of the commission is to give a knowledge base and propose measures for meeting the major challenge of the shortage of skilled workers going forward. The report will provide an important basis for the work with competence and professionals in the sector in the upcoming national healthcare and cooperation plan.

“My goal is that we equip our sector for the future. The major work we are carrying out for this will set the frameworks for our common healthcare service. We will continue our work in strengthening and improving our common healthcare service across the country,” Kjerkol concluded.