Future-orientated qualitative methods are those which are used to gather and process information on the key factors which are likely to affect the supply and demand of health workforces (through techniques such as horizon scanning interviews) and includes methods to describe and quantify potential futures.


Below we describe the methods used by partners in Work Package 6 (WP6) in the Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting as well as provide country profiles to accompany the main report and findings.


Why should we use future-orientated methods?

  • Health workforce planning and forecasting is complex due to the large number of potential factors influencing the supply and demand of health workforces. There is also a degree of intrinsic uncertainty associated with considering the future.
  • The methods presented within these user guidelines can be used for a number of purposes alongside quantitative methods to ensure that an integrated approach to health workforce planning and forecasting is achieved.
  • It is also recommended that to take into account how various partners have reviewed workforces thus far and the methods they have used. This existing body of evidence provides good opportunities for learning when MSs consider and plan similar workforce groups for their own national contexts.


Download the report

User guidelines on future-orientated workforce planning methods in Europe

PDF to download


The user guidelines are aimed broadly at health workforce planners and forecasters in Member States (MSs) and stakeholder organisations in the European Union who would like to apply qualitative methods to improve their health workforce planning and forecasting in their specific national contexts.


Future orientated workforce planning methods and their use across Europe (Click on the flags to read the country profiles)


Below is a summary of the methods, a description (see the main report for more detail) and which countries are using them (Click the flags for more detail).




Countries using the method

01 Identifying stakeholders

Ensuring that all of the relevant people are identified and are involved the health workforce planning process.

nl The Netherlands uk UK
02 Literature reviews A literature review’s main purpose is to consider the evidence that is available, and examine previous research and thinking on a topic. be Belgium fi Finland nl The Netherlands uk UK

Semi-structured interviews including horizon scanning

Semi-structured interviews are an effective research method to target people based on the specific knowledge and experience that they have as well as to consider future drivers of change. be Belgium nl The Netherlands uk UK
04 Surveys Survey research is a form of structured interviewing using a predetermined structure and topic e.g. future trends on demand for workforce or career intentions. be Belgium sp Spain uk UK
05 Scenarios A scenario is ‘an internally consistent view of what the future might turn out to be – not a forecast, but one possible future outcome’.  Scenarios help consider different futures and different possible responses. be Belgium fi Finland ge Germany nl The Netherlands sp Spain uk UK
06 Delphi The Delphi method is a systematic consensus process for collecting and refining the knowledge of a group of experts and is well known for its use in futures research and forecasting.  It can help quantify uncertain workforce planning variables such as future retirement or activity rates. be Belgium nl The Netherlands uk UK




Qualitative methods, resources and model-based planning

These methods vary in use depending on the area of research they are applied.  Typically within workforce planning, whilst literature reviews, surveys and interviews can be used to horizon scan in purely qualitative terms, the use of scenarios and Delphi exercises are commonly used in combination with a quantitative model and therefore have greater resource requirements and are generally more complex to use.  This is useful to consider when scoping workforce planning projects and programmes.





As part of the research, the team and partners from the aforementioned countries documented the use of qualitative methods so that other stakeholders can understand what they use and how they use the various techniques as part of workforce planning.


These profiles are reproduced here as they were submitted. We have not edited or translated any of these submissions and the approaches are described in their own words.


BELGIUM – country profile

FINLAND – country profile

GERMANY – country profile

HUNGARY – country profile

SPAIN – country profile

THE NETHERLANDS – country profile

UK – country profile



Matt Edwards

Head of Horizon Scanning and International, Department of Health, UK


UK Department of Health team