logo-eucommOn 4 April 2014 the European Commission launched a communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems which aims to lay out an EU agenda to ensure Europe’s health systems can face up to current challenges. It highlights a number of initiatives and tools the EU can develop and build upon to help Member States ensure that citizens’ aspirations to high quality care can be met, in line with reform recommendations addressed to them in the context of the European Semester.Effectiveness is defined as “health systems’ ability to produce positive health outcomes, i.e. to improve the health of the population”. Some issues that may be of relevance for Eurodiaconia members and partners:The communication stresses the need for systems to be accessible, as stated in the European Social Charter, whilst noting that this is difficult to measure. Regarding resilience, the ability to adapt to changing environments, the Commission found the following factors were important in ensuring accessible and effective systems: Stable funding mechanisms (e.g. reliance on employment based contributions more exposed to challenges); sound risk adjustment and pooling methods to ensure finances follow needs, good governance (e.g. well-defined responsibilities in the organisation) good information flows (including knowledge of weaknesses in the system) adequate costing of services to ensure effective decisions on prioritisation and and investment and a correctly qualified health workforce.

The findings of a recent consultation conducted by the European Commission showed there was a strong interest in examining the issues that impact on quality in healthcare and the Commission will follow this up.

The paper talks of the importance of the integration of care, different levels of healthcare and between health and social care and national governments are called to reflect on how to reduce the need for hospital care. The document also notes that the separation between professions is likely to become less rigid through the creation of multidisciplinary teams.

The Commission will work with governments to develop recommendations, tools, indicators and guidelines on predicting skills needs in the health workforce (no mention of the common challenges with the social care workforce)

The Communication recommends to Member States that they:

  • Strengthen effectiveness, keeping in mind that the first objective of a health system is to improve the health of the population. This can be done through applying performance assessment results, ensuring safety and quality of care for patients, and developing an integrated approach to care so as to avoid over reliance on hospitals.

  • Increase accessibility, so that health systems provide healthcare services to the whole population. This result can be achieved through better planning of the health workforce and a more effective use of medicines. Furthermore, the Directive on cross-border care will provide increased transparency, and better affordability and availability of care.

  • Improve resilience, so health systems are capable of adapting to changing environments and identifying innovative solutions. This capacity can be strengthened by choosing more effective and efficient treatments which respond to patients’ needs. Of equal importance is building efficient information flows and innovative Information and Communication Technologies in health.

Member States are also encouraged to make good use of European funding instruments, such as structural funds, in implementing the recommended reforms.