On 10 December, Health Ministers unanimously adopted Council Conclusions on the Reflection Process on Modern, Responsive and Sustainable Health Systems, prepared by the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU. In the Conclusions the Member States acknowledge the core role of health for the economic prosperity and stress the importance of the principles of solidarity, universal health care accessibility as well as the horizontal principle “health in all policies”.
“The EU Member States have to be proactive. Our healthcare systems have to be ready to withstand current and future challenges. The EU citizens have rightful expectations. While making decisions on future healthcare systems we, the EU Ministers of Health, have to consider these expectations seriously,” said the Chair of the Council Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis.
EPHA supports the approach taken by health ministers in putting promotion and disease prevention as key factors for the long-term sustainability of health systems.
Ministers encouraged the development of concrete EU action towards reducing the burden of chronic diseases and aligning the research agenda to public health needs.
The Ministers supported measures necessary for better co-ordination at national and EU level in the field of health. Namely, to ensure appropriate coordination between the EPSCO and ECOFIN in order to improve the quality of the policy dialogue and to increase the added value of EU discussions on health policies which are facing challenges going beyond the mere fiscal sustainability.
Co-ordination at national and EU level is necessary in order to adequately represent the health sector in the process of the European Semester. Ministers asked to streamline the on-going healthcare assessments at EU level, in cooperation with the Social Protection Committee and the Economic Policy Committee, and by examining and establishing a working relationship between the Working Party on Public Health at Senior Level and the Social Protection Committee.
This is an important step forward, as the health community has been calling for closer collaboration between health and finance decision makers. At the EPHA 2013 Annual Conference, EPHA members also advocated for greater involvement of Health Ministers in the European Semester. This better collaboration should lead to recommendations in the European Semester that will improve health outcomes.
Another concrete call to action was to the possible impacts of health system reforms as presented in National Reform Programmes, including direct and indirect effects on health, population poverty, employment rates, productivity and competitiveness. Since the onset of the crisis civil society has been calling for a health impact assessment, and this this may be the first step.
EPHA welcomes that Ministers were invited to continue reflection, on a voluntary basis, on aspects that may have an impact on availability, accessibility, prices, costs, patient safety and innovation of pharmaceuticals. EPHA will continue to advocate for its proposals in on access to medicines.
The Conclusions also put forward a set of principles: (1) more effective use of European Structural and Investment Funds for health investments; (2) an active role healthcare professional organisations; and (3) empower and inform patients through involvement of patient organisations in the development of policies and programmes on integrated care.