International operational reviews of two Finnish health institutes
According to the international operational reviews commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL, Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL, Työterveyslaitos) have performed well and offered excellent support when preparing and making decrees. It is the opinion of the bodies conducting the reviews that THL and TTL should retain their statuses as independent institutes. In conducting their R&D operations, however, both institutes are still faced with the challenges of cutbacks in public sector expenditure. This situation will demand clear operational prioritisation.
The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health commissioned two separate reports from international review bodies regarding the institutes' operations and development needs. The review bodies consisted of invited domestic and international experts.
According to Permanent Secretary Päivi Sillanaukee, "the reviews were necessary precisely at this moment, as the Government has announced sizeable cuts to the research budgets of both institutes and the consolidation of funding under the remit of the Prime Minister's Office and the Academy of Finland." "The review bodies have conducted their work thoroughly and deserve great thanks", she continued.
The review bodies were tasked with assessing both institutes in regard to the societal impact, effectiveness, and efficiency of their respective operations, as well as their importance to the field of developing innovations. The role of both institutes in research policy was also assessed in light of ongoing reforms of research and funding practices.
It was the view of both the National Institute for Health and Welfare itself and its respective review body that some of the institute's areas of activity and commitments fell outside of the institute's core remit. These commitments should be further assessed in the future, especially in relation to the reduced availability of resources. The review also highlighted the fact that THL is operationally diverse in terms of its clients, which causes problems in relation to its division of labour and to resourcing. It is the recommendation of the review that THL should improve its management and administration processes so as to better meet current expectations and levels of resourcing.
According to the review body, universities can supplement the research conducted by THL They cannot, however, operationally replace the institute in terms of the collation and maintenance of vast data collections or in regard to expedited reporting. The review also concluded that the work of THL does not adequately affect actual policy making or make enough of an impact on people's everyday life.
It was the view of the body reviewing the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health that there is cause for the institute to retain its independent status, as this allows it to function well and participate in networks both domestically and internationally. There is, however, room for improvement in terms of the institute's service provision for small businesses. It was also observed that the institute required more expertise in assessing the impact and effectiveness of legislation, operations, projects and initiatives. The review body also drew attention tothe fiscal uncertainty surrounding training for doctors specialising in occupational health.
Moreover, the review suggested that TTL must improve its expertise in relation to the increasing digitisation of working life and the demands this growth makes on occupational healthcare. The problems faced by immigrants and the challenges posed by flexible contracts and self-employment were also highlighted as areas in which the institute should have more operational emphasis. Indeed, TTL must develop into the recognised expert in new work-related phenomena.
The reviews went on to suggest that THL and TTL need to work more closely in the fields of environmental and acute health care. Similarly, this cooperation should also be extended to information management work in conjunction with Kela. Furthermore, there needs to be careful investigation of the opportunities to reduce costs and share resources across the board.
Alongside the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will draw up a strategy for the measures that need to be taken on the basis of the recommendations made by the reviews. This strategy work will be conducted in June.Further information
Ministerial Counsellor for Finance Arto Koho, tel. +358 (0)295 163264