EULAR conference in Brussels
“Analysing how to reduce the Access Barriers to Health Care for People with Chronic Diseases in Europe. Challenges, good practices and policy options for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases”
European Parliament and Thon Hotel EU, 16 October 2014
During last October, EULAR organised a conference in Brussels to discuss the very important matter of access to health care for people with chronic diseases (CDs), such as RMDs, in Europe. Agora’s Chairperson Souzi Makri attended the EULAR Conference representing Agora. The conference was hosted by MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou and chaired by Maurizio Cutolo. The aim of the Conference was to engage the speakers and participants of the conference in discussing and identifying policy developments that could help diminish the access barriers to health care for people with CDs and RMDs. The conference attracted 150 participants, amongst which Members of the European Parliament, representatives from the European Commission, the European and Social Committee, Member States, the World Health Organisation, representatives from scientific societies, patient organisations and health professionals from all around Europe.
One of the main discussions revolved around the impact of the current financial crisis that European countries are struggling with and how this situation, following the numerous austerity measures and other restrictions, has affected the access to health care especially for people with RMDs and other chronic diseases. In addition to this, the statistic data presented by various speakers, made it clear that the financial crisis in combination with the significant rise and widespread presence of CDs such as RMDs, have both contributed in the intensification of the problem. Therefore, given the growing socioeconomic impact of many of the chronic conditions, all speakers and participants agreed that some policy measures should be taken and that the need to adopt a EU strategy on RMDs in a European level is more than just a necessity. Even though the current crisis makes it unlikely that the health care division will not suffer from more cutoffs, improvements and innovative solutions concerning the care provision for people with RMDs should still be a priority. Furthermore, the discussion panel stressed the fact that the newly appointed European Commission should take the lead and support the strengthening of the care systems of all the EU members, as this is a very crucial matter tormenting most of the EU member states.
A very interesting part of the conference was the four breakout workshops, which focused on the development of policy recommendations that could reduce the barriers in health care access. The aim was to indicate the fundamental barriers found in four specific topics related to the overall subject of the conference and give solutions that could combat the problem and reduce the barriers. The four sessions focalised on four topics: “Health systems responses to financial constraints”; “Patient empowerment, health literacy & Information to patients”; “Health professionals: availability/composition, roles, training, mobility, accreditation”; and “Access to treatments and medicines: availability, pricing and reimbursement”. Finally, the panel discussed the results of the workshops, which can be found in EULAR’s report, in a debate. Concluding, the panel and all participants agreed that this issue can only be resolved and dealt with if all the stakeholders, patients, health professionals and policy makers cooperate, as CDs and the efficient access to health care is a matter that affects all of us in both social and economic levels.