Policy responses for Sweden - HSRM


Policy responses for Sweden

2.2 Workforce

At the local level, Sweden has 290 municipalities, which are responsible for social care and long-term care for older people. For older residents, this is a major issue and the deaths due to COVID-19 are increasing rapidly. During the period of March 13th to 19th the National Board of Health and Welfare sent out a survey to the managers of care for older people in the municipalities. The survey included questions about the workforce capacity in the care for older people due to the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the survey most municipalities reported that the preparedness was rated as moderate to high in terms of staffing. Municipalities in metropolitan areas rated the workforce capacity somewhat better than other municipalities.

• March 18th. Karolinska Institutet publishes web education for personnel in health care and social care commissioned by the National Board of Health and Welfare.
• March 26th. In the case of schools and other childcare services closing down due to the coronavirus, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has prepared regulation such that legal guardians’ children shall be offered childcare. Legal guardians working in the 12 essential business sectors, including health care and social care, will be able to apply for childcare.
• March 29th. To encourage medical and nursing students to work, the Government has temporary repealed a maximum salary to allow for students to get full financial aid for their studies.
• March 30th. The Government tasked the Public Health Agency with developing a strategy to increase the testing capacity while retaining quality. People that work in health care or care for older people, with suspected COVID-19 will be prioritised for testing.
• April 3rd. An agreement regarding crises is activated in the county Stockholm. The agreement regulates, among other things, increasing the employees' working hours to 48 hours per week and enables health care personnel to be transferred to other municipalities or regions, in order to quickly move resources where they are needed most.
• April 8th. The Health and Social Care Inspectorate has initiated an inspection due to the outbreak COVID-19 in older peoples’ homes in the counties of Stockholm and Sörmland.
• April 13th. The National Board of Health and Welfare publishes a four day web education for new personnel in older people and disability care. The introductory package has been developed to meet the prevailing situation with COVID-19, which could lead to workforce shortages. However, the introductory package does not meet the regular standards of the National Board of Health and Welfare. The agency emphasizes the need to complete the education after the COVID-19 outbreak.
• April 17th. The Government tasks the Health and Social Care Inspectorate with analyses the effects of COVID-19 with regards to quality and safety in health and social care.
• May 12th. The Government presented measures to strengthen care for older people in light of the COVID-19 crisis. During 2020 and 2021, the government will allocate SEK 2.2 billion to offer employees in older people care paid education and training during working hours. The goal is to increase the number of permanent positions in the care for older people.
• June 4th. The Government tasks the National Board of Health and Welfare to support the counties to coordinate health resources to ensure workforce and transportation capacity during the summer.
• September 13th. In the autumn amendment budget, the government proposes crisis support aimed at staff in health and elderly care who worked with COVID-19. This is to mitigate against the increased risk of mental illness among health care professionals who worked under increased stress during the pandemic.

In the county of Stockholm, the county with most residents and had the fastest spread of infection at the beginning of the outbreak, the workforce have access to 24-hour mental health support. The demand for mental health support has increased gradually. In normal circumstances, the occupational health service offers crisis support and personnel can contact them after consulting their manager. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, crisis support has been extended. Now, everyone working in the county of Stockholm, can contact the mental health support, without going through their manager.

On November 30th, the government commissioned the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to pay out SEK 150 million in crisis support aimed at staff employed in elderly care who have undertaken Covid-19 related work. Every municipality is granted a minimum of SEK 100 000 SEK to boost early efforts for mental health recovery among workers.

On December 22th, the income limit for students was abolished until June 2021 to enable for example medical students to work in health care settings without reductions in their student aid.
In December 2020, the private initiative, the so-called ‘Skill Shift Initiative’ (beredskapslyftet), worked to temporally increase the health care workforce to meet the rapid surge in new COVID-19 cases. The initiative has been active during the pandemic and helped mobilize personnel who are available from other industries to support Swedish workplaces that are under pressure or in need of urgent assistance as a result of the coronavirus crisis. In this call, people with knowledge or experience in anaesthesia and intensive care have been requested.