The Future of Health
At a major conference, held in Brussels on 11 and 12 July and organised in collaboration with Finland’s EU Presidency, the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) addressed the collective priorities and actions required to advance the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 in Europe and to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all.
As a new Parliament and Commission are about to take office, this timely event provided the occasion for stakeholders to come forward with their ideas, concerns and suggestions with respect to the new EU mandate, making the case for a stronger EU-level health policy engagement.
The event was the second in a series of high-level PACT events taking place during this year, all of which relate to the future of health in the EU. The first was the “EU collaboration in health for better access: Taking stock and looking to the future” at the European Parliament and organized in collaboration with the MEP Interest Group on Access Healthcare.
During interactive workshops, panel and audience debates, some 115 delegates representing patient organisations, healthcare professionals, policy institutions and governments, public health NGOs, public health experts and industry from 22 Member States addressed a broad range of issues, challenges and opportunities related to progressing EU-level health policy.
Discussions touched upon the need for multi-sectoral cooperation; ‘we need to build bridges rather than walls’, PACT Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev said. ‘Unified and understandable advocacy messages can open the doors to other sectors impacting on health’.
Another recurrent theme related to the current EU-level health competency; while often perceived as weak, it remains highly relevant. Facilitating the sharing of experiences and mutual learning while assuring appropriate coordination and direction can and will be beneficial. Moreover, existing tools and instruments, such as the European Semester Process and Horizon Europe, can be put to better use to ensure a health dimension in other EU-level policies. However, in order to truly achieve a multi-sectoral approach to health, the priorities of other sectors will need to be identified as the health aspects of these priorities can provide useful entry points for cooperation. Participants also agreed on the need to appoint a Vice-President for Health in the next Commission, who would be responsible for assessing the impact of EU-level policy development on the health of citizens and propose pro-active health policy measures.
The conference was closely aligned with the overarching theme of the Finnish EU Presidency, i.e. “The Economy of Well-being’; this theme was widely welcomed as the start of a new way of thinking in relation to health policy. ‘Apart from being a treaty-enshrined human right, health should be seen as a precondition for a well-functioning Single Market. Economic growth improves people’s wellbeing, while wellbeing and health of the population enhance economic growth and stability’ said Dr. Päivi Sillanaukee, representing the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The conference also provided the occasion to introduce “The Health PACT”. This document contains a shared vision, shared responsibilities and the actions needed to improve access to health and to advance the Sustainable Development Agenda in Europe. The Health PACT will be open to comments and suggestions in the coming weeks before finalisation; stakeholders are invited to make active use of the document in their advocacy efforts to influence the upcoming mandate of the EU institutions.
PACT Regional Conference
On September 12-13, the Patient Access Partnership held the first Regional Conference entitled “Cooperation within the region: a way to improve access to quality healthcare in CEE”.
For a first time, delegates from more than 25 countries in Europe – policy-makers, representatives of healthcare institutions and patient, healthcare and trade associations, gathered to discuss challenges and discuss cooperation opportunities for improving access for patients to quality healthcare.
The PACT Regional Conference explored the following issues:
- Barriers to ensuring equal access to quality healthcare in CEE countries;
- Opportunities for cooperation between stakeholders within and between the countries from the region;
- Existing best-practice examples of cooperation between stakeholders;
- Possible actions to ensure better access to quality health services in the region;
- Existing and potential EU mechanisms to support national efforts to improve access
Patient-centred Roundtable in Portugal25 February, 2019
Patient-centred Roundtable in Romania20 November, 2017
Patient-centred Roundtable in Lithuania8 June, 2017
Patient-centred Roundtable in Portugal
On February 25, the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) in partnership with Grupo de Ativistas em Tratamentos (GAT) and the collaborative initiative MAIS PARTICIPAÇÃO Melhor saúde that GAT promotes, held a meeting in Lisbon, entitled “Patient-Centred Roundtable on Working Together for Accessible Health”, to discuss opportunities for improving cooperation between Portuguese health stakeholders for better access to quality healthcare in the country. The event, was organized with the institutional support of the Health Parliamentary Commission and the Ministry of Health of Portugal.
Welcoming the participants, Mr. Luis Mendão (president of GAT) highlighted the importance of health systems that are both patient and prevention centered. He remarked the relevance of PACT as an initiative that supports the synergies between the European and local institutions for the benefit of access to health care for all patients. Dr. Stanimir Hasardzhiev (Secretary-General of PACT) presented the event as the third of its kind where PACT has hoped to serve as a platform for active dialogue between the European institutions and the Member States.
Ms. Isabel Aldir (Director for Viral Hepatitis and HIV / AIDS and Tuberculosis Priority Program) reinstated the commitment of the National Health Service to addressing the citizen’s needs and went on to highlighting the importance of patients’ involvement in health policy – for which health literacy and empowerment are a prerequisite, and the need of active involvement from all stakeholders in efforts to assure access to healthcare.
Mr. Ricardo Baptista Leite (Member of the Portuguese Parliament) emphasized the need of truly accessible systems for which access to relevant and quality information is essential. Speaking of the European Semester, Mr. Carl Larsson Lindqvist (DG SANTE, European Commission) presented the efforts of the European Commission to support primarily financial sustainability and access the healthcare.
Representatives from EUPATI, the Fast Track Cities initiative, academics, civil society, trade associations, policy makers, patient organizations, public health experts and other stakeholders, discussed in details the main issues that the Portuguese healthcare system faces. Issues such as literacy and empowerment of patients – including prevention, the reinforcement of a truly inclusive healthcare system, the efficiency of existing resources, the need of better cooperation and dialogue among stakeholders and investment in new technologies were central throughout the conversations.
Patient-centred Roundtable in Romania
On November 20, the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) and the Coalition of Organisations of Patients with Chronic Diseases in Romania (COPAC) held a meeting in Bucharest, entitled “Patient-Centred Roundtable on Working Together for Accessible Health”, to discuss opportunities for improving cooperation between Romanian stakeholders for better access to quality healthcare in the country.
The event, organised in cooperation with the Health Committee of the Senate (Romanian Parliament), the Health Committee of the Deputy Chamber (Romanian Parliament) and the European Patients’ Forum (EPF), was endorsed by the Romanian Minister of Health – Florian Bodog.
Following the discussions, it became evident that patients in Romania face barriers in access to healthcare due to geographic, economic and social reasons. Although progress has been made, there is room for improvement to ease the financial hardship for patients related to healthcare costs, to address unmet needs, to improve access to medicines and to take measures against shortage of healthcare personnel which exacerbates the inequalities in access to healthcare.
To manage these and other related issues, the Romanian government needs to employ and modify actions informed by best practices elsewhere. Moreover, to ensure that solutions are fit-for-purpose with real added-value for patients, their voice and recommendations need to be taken into account. The viewpoint of the other stakeholders, consulted on a regular basis in advance of decision-making, will bring comprehensive understanding of complex issues, prevent unnecessary spending on policies which do not achieve tangible results and ensure that solutions are tailor-made for the specific needs of society.
Patient-centred Roundtable in Lithuania
On June 8, the Patient Access Partnership (PACT) and the Lithuanian Cancer Patient Coalition (POLA) held a stakeholder meeting entitled “Patient-Centred Roundtable on Working Together for Accessible Health”. The event, organized in cooperation with the Committee on Health Affairs of Lithuanian Parliament (Vilnius), Lithuanian Ministry of Health, Lithuanian Patients‘ Forum and the European Patients’ Forum (EPF), took place in the Lithuanian Parliament and was held under the auspices and with the presence of the Lithuanian Minister of Health, Prof. Dr. Aurelijus Veryga.
The meeting was the first of several planned country stakeholder meetings to be held in selected EU Member States. It was initiated by PACT as a follow-up event to the PACT Regional Conference (12-13 September 2016, Sofia) where one of the main conclusions coming from the discussions between various stakeholders from Central and Eastern Europe was that the European Semester process should better reflect the country-level situation.
An emphasis was put on the need to allow broader stakeholder involvement and input with respect to the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). In this context, the meeting in Lithuania offered a timely opportunity for policy-makers and the healthcare community in Lithuania to increase cooperation and explore opportunities for effective engagement on existing and future healthcare policies with the aim to improve access to quality healthcare for patients.