The EPSCO Council brings together ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU Member States. Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings which happen four times a year. In the 19-20 June meeting both the ongoing Greek Presidency and the upcoming Italian Presidency of the European Council recognised the importance of efficient and sustainable healthcare systems.

On the 19 June they discussed the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Ministers will take note of progress reports on:

  • a decision establishing a new Platform to improve prevention and deterrence of undeclared work,
  • a regulation regarding the EURopean Employment Services (EURES) network,
  • a directive on women on company boards, and
  • the equal treatment directive. The Council is due to adopt conclusions on "Women and the economy: Economic independence from the perspective of part-time work and self-employment".

Over lunch, ministers discussed work-related stress and psychological risks, one of the key issues in the new Commission Communication on health and safety at work.

On the 20 June the agenda dealt with Health and Consumer Affairs items, under the chairmanship of Makis Voridis, Minister for Health of Greece. On Friday morning, the Council considered a Presidency progress report on two draft regulations concerning medical devices and in vitro medical devices, providing guidance for future work on these files. Ministers will also adopt conclusions on the ’Economic crisis and healthcare’ and ’Nutrition and physical activity’.

After the Council meeting, a signing ceremony for the joint procurement agreements for pandemic vaccines and other medical countermeasures took place. The Presidency held a press conference afterwards. EPHA had several points that it would like to highlight:

- The Council is concerned that although most Member States have universal coverage, in practice many people have problems in accessing healthcare services when they need them and that the proportion of people reporting unmet health needs due to cost, distance to healthcare or waiting lists has increased in several Member States during the economic crisis.

- The Council invites Member States to continue improving further access for all to high quality healthcare services, paying particular attention to the most vulnerable groups.

- The Council aims at reaching a common understanding on the most effective resilience factors, including those proposed by the Commission in its recent communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems.

- Member States are invited to cooperate further on sharing information on strategies to effectively manage pharmaceutical and medical devices expenditure, while ensuring equitable access to effective medicines within sustainable national healthcare systems and, using existing groups where relevant, continue discussions on issues related to affordable pricing, use of generic medicines, orphan medicines, medical devices and small markets.

- Building on the outcomes of the Action Plan for the EU health workforce and with particular attention to the recommendations from the Joint Action on health workforce planning and forecasting, to further cooperate on ways to strengthen health workforce policies in the Member States to help them ensure sustainable health workforce with the necessary skills to guarantee accessibility, safety and quality of care;

- The Commission and Member States should aim to reinforce cooperation and better coordination between the Social Protection Committee (SPC) and the Working Party on Public Health at Senior Level (WPPHSL) so that Ministries of Health can actively contribute within the framework of the European Semester;

- They would like to promote the implementation of Information Communications Technology (ICT) innovations and eHealth solutions to ensure quality of care and health literacy, and improve efficiency and effectiveness of health systems and control of expenditures.

Press release. 3177th Council meeting - Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs - Luxembourg, 21 and 22 June 2012

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Last modified on July 17 2014.