On September 12-13, the Patient Access Partnership held its first Regional Conference entitled “Cooperation within the region: a way to improve access to quality healthcare in CEE”.

For the first time, delegates from more than 25 countries in Europe – policy-makers, representatives of healthcare institutions and patient organisations, healthcare and trade associations, gathered to discuss challenges and discuss cooperation opportunities for improving access for patients to quality healthcare.

During the opening session, Dr. Moskov, Minister of Health of the Republic of Bulgaria and host of the event, affirmed the need for a constructive dialogue as well as common actions on access to medicines. He discussed the ongoing initiative in this area between ministers of health in Central and Eastern Europe and announced that an “Agreement for cooperation on access to effective medical treatment” between Bulgaria and Romania is expected to be signed by the end of this month. He also announced that the 2018 Bulgarian EU Presidency will have a strong focus on medicines policy with the aim to improve access to healthcare of the EU citizens.

Dr Andrey Kovatchev MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Interest Group on Access to Healthcare, reiterated the need for better cohesion between ongoing EU initiatives. The other keynote speakers, Alyna Smith of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, Šarūnas Narbutas of Lithuanian Cancer Patient Coalition and Yannis Natsis of the European Public Health Alliance emphasized the necessity to identify common grounds for action across the region to ensure better access, especially for migrants and other marginalized groups.

Representing the European Commission’s health department, Artur Carvalho underlined the significant progress on health indicators and measurement of access over the last couple of years, highlighting the EU Semester process and the European Structural Funds as key mechanisms to support national efforts to improve access to healthcare in concrete ways.

In presenting the conclusions of the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health, Prof. Jan De Maeseneer stated that “To ensure access to quality healthcare, it is crucial that financial resources are linked to health needs, services are affordable, accessible and appropriate, patients have access to quality medication and technology and health workers ensure timely and relevant care provision.

The Conference also provided the opportunity for the presentation and discussion of successful examples of cooperation, such as the voluntary Benelux collaboration on pharmaceutical policy and pricing.

A dedicated workshop led to a series of conclusions which addressed the obvious need for the EU Commission and relevant EU-level umbrella organisations to put additional efforts into raising awareness of the possibilities of the European Semester and Structural Funds, which provide possibilities for wider stakeholder involvement in priority setting and decision-making processes. Building capacity for structured multi-stakeholder involvement, they agreed, will guarantee that urgent and relevant needs are identified and dealt with at the national and EU levels.

It was affirmed that better dialogue between all stakeholders will create new possibilities for action. Investment in healthcare, it was further agreed, is the key to ensuring fair, adequate and timely access to medical treatment without underestimation of other major healthcare challenges such as workforce migration, difficult access to hospital care and low quality of care provision.

Chairing the meeting, PACT Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev concluded that all stakeholders have to play their part if sustainable changes to improve access to medicines and healthcare are to be made.

To view all materials from the event, please click here.