The Patient Access Partnership (PACT) warmly welcomes the recent Preliminary Opinion entitled ‘Access to healthcare in the EU’, issued by the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH). The fact that the European Commission requested the EXPH’s advice on this specific topic is a clear sign of the increasing political attention, and the advice contained in the document will support EU and national level efforts to address inequities relating to access.

PACT actively contributed to the dissemination of the messages contained in the Opinion by organising a meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Access to Healthcare on 17 November. Jointly chaired by Andrey Kovatchev MEP and European Patients’ Forum Secretary General Nicola Bedlington, the event was timely as patient access to health care is rapidly becoming an issue on the EU policy agenda, not only of the Commission, but also of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Speaking in the event, Health Attaché Anne Calteux stated that ‘the Luxembourg Presidency took account of the patients’ desire for healthcare access as well as the need to actively include patients at the heart of the debate’, as demonstrated by the Presidency’s efforts to launch discussions on access to personalized medicines and pricing.

Speaking on behalf of the Commission’s DG Santé, Maria Iglesia Gomez underlined the importance of the Opinion and the potential it has to support the Commission’s reflections and future policy agenda relating to patient access. Presenting the Opinion, Expert Platform Chair Jan de Maeseneer (Ghent University) and Rapporteur Sarah Thomson (WHO-Europe), underlined the huge inequalities in access that continue to exist between and within countries as well as between different population groups and called for a solidarity based approach,  ‘with a focus on equal packages of primary care and addressing unmet need’.

The Opinion addresses the main barriers to access relating to the affordability, availability, timeliness and acceptability of services. Both speakers called for more and better data as well as for effective measurement of equity of access, robust data being the basis of sound policy development. The focus should be on unmet needs, use and usеr experience and people that are hard to reach.

Notably, this call for more data and more effective measurement tools resonates well with the principal objectives of the Interest Group’s as well as with the Patient Access Partnership (providing the secretariat for the Interest Group). Both platforms are set on turning discussions and debates into tangible actions and outcomes and have underlined the need for better measurement and robust data from the outset.

The recent agreement between the Parliament and the Commission to fund a specific pilot project on measuring access to health care and developing a sound measuring tool under the 2016 EU budget therefore is a welcome and positive development.

As highlighted by Andrey Kovatchev MEP ‘We, as interested MEPs, act on our commitment to turn words into action in this crucial area. The pilot project, developed by the Interest Group with the support of the Partnership, is a positive step in the right direction of concrete EU level action to tackle inequities in access’.

A report from the event is available here