Background: Health workforce (HWF) planning and monitoring processes face challenges regarding data and appropriate indicators. One such area fraught with difficulties is labour activity and, more specifically, defining headcount and full-time equivalent (FTE). This study aims to review national practices in FTE calculation formulas for selected EU Member States (MS). Methods: The research was conducted as a part of the Joint Action on European Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting. Definitions, categories and terms concerning the five sectoral professions were examined in 14 MS by conducting a survey. To gain a deeper understanding of the international data-reporting processes (Joint Questionnaire on Non-Monetary Health Care Statistics-JQ), six international expert interviews were conducted by using a semi-structured interview guide. Results: Of the 14 investigated countries, four MS indicated that they report FTE to the JQ and that they also calculate FTE data for national planning purposes. The other countries do not use FTE data for national purposes, but most of them do use special calculations and/or estimation methods for converting headcount to FTE. The findings revealed significant differences between national calculation methods when reporting FTE data to the JQ. This diversity in terms of calculations and estimations can lead to biases with respect to international comparisons. This finding was reinforced by the expert interviews, since the experts agreed that the activities of healthcare professionals are a fundamental factor in HWF monitoring and planning. Experts underscored that activity should also be measured by FTE, and not only by headcount. Conclusions: FTE and headcount are significant factors in HWF planning and monitoring therefore, national data collections should place emphasis on collecting data and calculating the appropriate indicators. National FTE could serve as a call to action for HWF planners due to the lack of matching international FTE data. At the international level, it is beneficial to monitor the trends and numbers regarding human resources and working time. For the moment, the exchange of information and mutual assistance for developing the capacity to apply common methodology could be a first step towards the standardisation of data collections.
Girasek, E., Kovács, E., Aszalós, Z., Eke, E., Ragány, K., Kovács, R., … Szócska, M. (2016). Headcount and FTE data in the European health workforce monitoring and planning process. Human Resources for Health, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-016-0139-2