Interview with Albert van der Horst

HUMAN CAPITAL - The transition to a future-savvy workforce

‘The Dutch health and care sector requires more and well-trained human capital to find answers to current and future societal issues, meet challenges in healthcare and continue to stimulate economic growth’, says Albert van der Horst, head of the economics department at the Macroeconomic Issues and Labour Market Directorate (MEVA) at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

Van der Horst has spent his entire career working on the interface between knowledge and policy. He has shifted his focus to health and care over the past 18 months by joining MEVA. In addition, since last year, he has been Chief Science Officer at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). Here he takes a broad look at the possibilities for bridging the gap between policy and knowledge in the health field. Van der Horst is also a member of the Core Team of the Societal Theme Health and Care on behalf of VWS.

Together with his team, Van der Horst focuses on using knowledge to make good decisions. ‘Policy should be curious about new knowledge or new information and adapt in response to this where necessary’, says Van der Horst. ‘We believe it is important to consider new information with an open mind.’

Consequences of the aging population

The Dutch healthcare system is one of the best in the world. This is partly due to the quality, accessibility and affordability of healthcare. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, for example in prevention and alcohol policy. However, this is not the only challenge. Van der Horst emphasises that the question is already circulating as to whether the Netherlands will still be able to offer the current quality of care in ten years’ time. 

‘In the future, the labour market will only become tighter’, says Van der Horst. ‘As a result of the ageing population, the relationship between the elderly, who require relatively more care, and young people, who have to provide care, is changing. The question is whether we will soon have enough people who can guarantee good and accessible healthcare in various places.’

In addition, the high part-time factor also creates a challenge. Many people in health and care work part-time. This means that sometimes two people have to follow training for one full-time position. ‘If more people would work full-time, then we would be able to compensate for some of the staff shortages’, explains Van der Horst.


Care at a university medical centre is very different from care in a nursing home. But in both cases, the sector must guarantee good care.’

– Albert van der Horst, head of the economics department at the Macroeconomic Issues and Labour Market Directorate (MEVA) at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

One system

Moving from intramural care to extramural care can also help to cope with the staff shortage. ‘In the future, we will have to create options so that people can live independently for longer’, says Van der Horst. ‘Informal care is important for this. We know that if people continue to live at home longer, they are less likely to make use of formal care. However, it is important that people can call on care in their own environment when necessary. Responsibility and initiative rest with the people themselves.’

This transition must also be possible for people in a lower socioeconomic class. ‘When formal care falls more into the background, informal care must be offered’, says Van der Horst. ‘There is no guarantee that this will happen everywhere. Not everyone in a vulnerable situation has a strong network around them. That is an important point for attention.’

Although professional care remains indispensable, informal care will become increasingly important, Van der Horst expects. ‘Good cooperation between professionals such as general practitioners and informal carers is required’, he says. ‘During education and in the labour market, attention is paid to this. It is important that professional care becomes acquainted with “the new reality”.’

Ongoing Transition

There are many other factors involved in this new reality. For example, the sector is making greater use of technology such as domotics. Van der Horst also sees a change in thinking: ‘We are looking more and more closely at the request for help: is it a care question, or can it be solved in a different way? And are the care providers also sufficiently capable of providing care without losing too much time on side tasks such as administration?’

‘I really see this as an ongoing transition’, says Van der Horst. This transition requires new knowledge, skills and competencies from everyone who works in healthcare, both formally and informally. New collaborations, new technology and new therapies are changing existing professions, and thus also the training. Human Capital affects everyone who works or is going to work in the sector, and their talents and qualities.

‘We want to provide better care for more people, but with the same working population’, says Van der Horst. ‘That is an enormous challenge, which we can only tackle with a significant transition.’

Human Capital Transition Agenda

Professionals with diverse and complementary talents are needed to realise the missions of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport within the societal theme of Health & Care and to tackle the current and future bottlenecks in the LSH sector, prevention and care, and research and education. The Human Capital Transition Agenda describes how the various coalition partners will work together in the coming years on the necessary changes in education, professional structure and the coordination between education and further training and practice. The Transition Agenda presents the future image for 2030 and the first important steps on the journey towards this for the year 2022.

Representatives from over 30 diverse parties drew up the Transition Agenda. These included educational institutions, professional associations, social organisations, and the business community. By subscribing to the pledge, they give their commitment to get started. The coalition is now focusing on execution of the agenda, among other things, by implementing the missions challenges, expanding the coalition and establishing the necessary preconditions via the policymakers and governmental bodies. 

Read the Transition Agenda here.

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Human Capital Agenda

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