Primary care services are key to population health and for the efficient and equitable organisation of national health systems; this is why they are often financed through public funds. Primary care doctors (also known as General Practitioners – GPs - or family doctors) are instrumental for the delivery of preventive services, continuity of care, and for the referral of patients through the system. These doctors are also the single largest health expenditure at the core of such services.
Although recruitment and retention of primary care doctors have historically been challenging, shortages are now exacerbated by higher demand of services from aging populations and increased burden of chronic diseases. Concurrently, the supply of GPs is constrained by rising retirement rates, in connection with internal and external migration, worsening working conditions, and budget cuts. Misalignment between national education sectors and labour markets is becoming apparent, compounding existing shortages of such critical and in-high-demand resources. With their predominantly publicly funded health systems and in the aftermath of COVID-19, European countries appear to be on the cusp of a long-burning primary care crisis, with almost every country reporting shortage in GPs workforces, long waiting lists for doctor appointments, unfilled vacancies in the medical labour market, and additional pressures on other parts of national health systems.
This Collection aims at pulling together the evidence from the particularly affected European countries on root causes of such a workforce crisis, its impacts on population health and access to services, as well as on the effectiveness of existing policies and interventions.
Original research papers are invited documenting the state of the primary care medical workforce in the European region, the impact of shortages on population health and access to services, as well as the effectiveness of reforms, policies and interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of the crisis. Only articles will be considered presenting primary or original analysis of secondary qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods evidence from the World Health Organization’s European region. Commentaries or opinion pieces will not be included in this Collection.
Ultimately, the aim of this article Collection is to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 3, 10 and 16, and provide an evidence basis for the identification of policy solutions to present and future primary care crises in higher and lower-income countries.
 See a list of the WHO Euro region countries at: https://www.who.int/europe/about-us/about-who-europe#:~:text=The%20WHO%20Regional%20Office%20for,Atlantic%20to%20the%20Pacific%20oceans.