The Patient Access Partnership warmly welcomes the draft Opinion, prepared by the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investment in Health (EXPH) entitled ‘Benchmarking access to healthcare in the EU’. This work is very much in line with PACT’s priorities and therefore, the organisation welcomed the commitment of the Commission in organising a hearing on this Opinion, hosted by the European Parliament Interest Group on Patient Access to Healthcare.
The hearing provided interested stakeholders with an opportunity to express their commitment to join efforts in closing gaps in access to healthcare, to learn about possible approaches to set benchmarks in access to healthcare and about policy levers guiding Member States to close these gaps and to learn how the Opinion could be used.
The hearing was attended by stakeholders representing a variety of interests and backgrounds, with all professional associations present working in the fields concerned.
Andrey Kovatchev MEP, chairing the event, underlined the importance of the topic and welcomed the increasing recognition of the importance of access to healthcare at the EU policy level, as reflected in the European Semester’s country specific recommendations and the European Pillar of Social Rights, which was adopted last April.
Welcoming the work of the EXPH, Biljana Borzan MEP stressed the need for the EU level to support governments in their efforts to tackle healthcare challenges and related access gaps, such as the growing burden of chronic disease due to demographic ageing. Providing governments with evidence based information on addressing access gaps can help them define solutions.
The complex and multi-dimensional nature of healthcare access gaps was emphasised by Cristian Silviu Busoi MEP; this would require a detailed mapping in order to develop plans on which issues need to be addressed and how.
Lieve Wierinck MEP underlined the importance of e-health in tackling health gaps, as this can supply concrete solutions for people living in remote areas.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission’s DG SANTE, Deputy Director-General Martin Seychell agreed with the urgent need for careful and effective measurement of access gaps, as ‘what does not get measured, does not get addressed’. He reiterated the Commission’s commitment to making progress in this area, making use of various existing tools, including the European Semester process.
Key note speaker Martin McKee, Rapporteur of the EXPH’s Opinion, shared a comprehensive overview of the Opinion, highlighting its content in relation to the quantitative and qualitative benchmarks proposed and the possible utilisation of EU funds and/or other mechanisms to support the improvement of access to healthcare.
Various stakeholders intervened in the discussion, providing their views on the Opinion and on access to healthcare in general, e.g. the need for a harmonised and interoperable health data system, the need for a stronger focus on vulnerable groups, the need to safeguard a focus on prevention rather than on cost-effectiveness and the need to ensure cross-fertilisation of ongoing work.
EXPH chair Jan de Maeseneer expressed the commitment of the Expert Panel to progress this topic and work towards access to healthcare for all, while not forgetting the most vulnerable.
PACT welcomed the Commission’s focus on the need to involve stakeholders at all levels of the policy development process and took the opportunity to call for an extended consultation period in relation to the Opinion.
The deadline is now 27 October and contributions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
A detailed report from the event is available here.