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ICN urges world leaders to avoid ‘potentially catastrophic’ nurse shortage

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has urged world leaders to act ‘swiftly and decisively’ to avoid a ‘potentially catastrophic’ shortage of nurses in the next decade.  

The ICN, a federation of national nurse associations of which the UK is not a part, warned that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will not meet its goal of universal health coverage without ‘massive investment’ in nursing worldwide.  

The WHO estimates there will be worldwide shortfall of nine million nurses and midwives by 2030 if no action is taken. 

As a result, the ICN is marking the start of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in 2020 by calling on governments to act.  

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said: ‘The WHO’s vision of improved global health will only become a reality if there is a massive investment in nursing.’ 

‘The potentially catastrophic shortage of nurses we face over the next decade can be avoided, but only if governments act swiftly and decisively to turn this situation around.’ 

He added that the ICN also aims in 2020 to ‘bust myths’ about nursing and ‘show the public the reality’ of the profession in the 21st century.  

The WHO has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to honour the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, while the ICN has joined Nursing Now - a campaign to raise the profile of nursing worldwide - in planning hundreds of events to mark the year.   

This will include the publication of the first WHO State of the World’s Nursing report, as well as celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.  

Nursing Now co-chair Lord Nigel Crisp said that 2020 provides an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to show what can be achieved with more investment in nursing and midwifery.  

He continued: ‘It is time for governments to step up and take decisive action to invest in their nursing and midwifery workforce.  

‘This requires countries to increase their allocation to health budgets, not only increasing numbers but ensuring that nurses and midwives are resourced and supported to meet the world's health care needs.’ 

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