A meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Patient Access to Healthcare, organised jointly with the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) on 20 February provided the occasion for the formal launch of PACT’s ‘Statement on the Future of Health in the European Union’.
Introducing the meeting and the Statement, PACT Chairperson Susanna Palkonen stated that ‘according to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 70% of Europeans would like to see more EU health cooperation. Amid strong and wide -spread concerns about the political rollback of EU involvement in health post 2020 and the next Multiannual Financial Framework it is vital to ensure that health is prioritised as an area where Europeans would like to see the EU do more instead of less’.
The document focuses on the need for EU policy to address all common health challenges, to ensure the provision of high-quality healthcare for all people across the Union and to embrace healthcare as a basic human and social right. It also calls for the appointment of a Vice-President for Health in the next College of Commissioners.
Prior to the launch of PACT’s Statement, a four-hour meeting took place, providing a variety of health stakeholders with the opportunity to take stock of the EU’s activities and achievements in relation to cooperation for the benefit of improving access to healthcare, to voice their concerns and to identify remaining gaps and future actions that would be required taken to address these.
Setting the scene for the discussions, DG SANTE Director General Anne Bucher presented an optimistic overview of the Commission’s achievements in recent years. She particularly emphasised the crucial role of the European Semester Process in addressing access issues, more specifically the greater synergy between its concrete health policy recommendations and support by the Structural Funds to bring about concrete change. She also underlined her confidence in being able to meet citizen’s demand for more EU-level action in the field of health, building on what has been achieved so far. Commission officials representing DG CONNECT and DG RTD also provided positive examples and future plans in the area of patient-centred and access related initiatives.
European Patients’ Forum Secretary General Nicola Bedlington, co-chairing the event, reminded the audience of the ‘5 A’s of access to healthcare, i.e. availability, affordability accessibility, appropriateness and adequacy, stating that these ‘should be the guiding concepts when assessing policies and initiatives through the lens of healthcare access’.
While positive about EU action taken until now -such as the creation of the ERNs – , Interest Group Co-chairs Lieve Wierinck MEP and Karin Kadenbach MEP expressed their concern about current persistent health and access inequalities across the EU and the position of health on the EU policy agenda. Examples of areas where concrete action is still urgently required were provided by representatives of the European AIDS Treatment Group, the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform and EuroHealthNet. Other stakeholders underlined the need for partnership and a Forum for better access to health innovation, to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to focus on solutions and enter into dialogue with the EU institutions.
Romanian Health Attaché Stefan Staicu underlined the Romanian Presidency’s overarching focus on access to healthcare and noted the 2011 Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare as a positive example of EU action on access to health care.
PACT’s Secretary General Stanimir Hasurdzhiev called for more action: ‘we have come a long way in terms of measuring access to healthcare – it is now time to address the findings and make a difference’.
The report from the meeting is available below: