Where is health in the next EU budget?Comments Off on Where is health in the next EU budget?

From the 25th edition of the CPME newsletter

The debate on the next long-term EU budget – the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – is about to start in the EU council and the parliament. Lively discussions are expected between Member States on the future priorities of the EU and how they will be translated in an EU budget. In this respect, the Commission already emphasised the importance of allocating resources in areas where the EU sees a clear added value. Security and defence, migration and competitiveness already emerged as priority areas. However, as economic growth should go hand in hand with health protection, it is not clear what this means for EU health policy. So far, this has never been mentioned in the debate.

When the Juncker Commission took office, the mantra of ‘big on big things and small on small things’ raised concerns as regards an excessively growth-driven agenda for EU policies (see our article, March 2016). Since then, trends can be observed towards: 1/ applying a logic from industrial and commercial policy to healthcare services, for example by introducing standards in healthcare services developed by industrial standardisation bodies, which have neither the necessary professional, ethical and technical competencies nor a public mandate to do so (CPME Position paper on the standardisation of healthcare services, adopted in May 2014); 2/ requesting Member States to increasingly justify the suitability and proportionality of new regulation on the basis of economic indicators, for example for professional regulation, including for healthcare professions. Here too, the implementation of a policy agenda directed at completing the internal market for business services conflicts with the objectives and responsibilities of health policy (CPME Position on the Proposal for a Directive on a proportionality test for adoption of new regulation for professions, adopted in April 2017); 3/ not renewing public health-oriented strategies, including the 2006 EU strategy on alcohol; 4/ closing some valuable and sustainable platforms for cross-border exchange of expertise, such as the Patient Safety and Quality of Care Working Group. These trends underline a continuous and increasing downgrade of health policy on the European agenda over the years. In the light of recent developments, health professions and the health community are increasingly wondering what the future of EU health policy will be. Will there be any health programme in the next EU budget? If not, what does it mean for the future of EU health policy? In respect of the ‘one commissioner for each member state’ principle, will the Brexit impact the organisation of the next Commission? Is it likely that the DG Santé will pay the price?

Meanwhile, the health status of the population is facing social challenges, such as the ageing of the population and the rise of chronic diseases, which cannot be contained without systematic actions and require the topic of health to be maintained high on the EU agenda. While Europe is facing an unprecedented demographic trend, the European Commission has identified active and healthy ageing as a major societal challenge, which presents considerable potential for Europe to show leadership in providing innovative responses. This will also require long-term health workforce planning and investment in employment and education in order to prepare the next generation of highly-qualified healthcare professionals. Only if the health workforce receives high quality education and training throughout its career and can rely on safe and attractive working conditions will patients be able to enjoy high quality healthcare. High standards of quality and safety must also drive the development of new medicinal products and health technologies with the ultimate objective of ensuring their availability for all patients. Furthermore, without research and innovation, by 2050 antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could lead to 10 million deaths globally and have a major impact on the economy. In this context, prevention and promotion will play a major role, not only in tackling AMR, but also in facing future public health threats and social challenges. Vaccination is a key solution to ensuring a healthy society and reducing costs related to avoidable healthcare interventions. In fact, rising threats to health can sometimes also be prevented through the implementation of focused programmes, as in the case of childhood vaccinations.

The health community welcomes those initiatives which address health needs to prevent disease and promote health across society. However, the trends in the European landscape are raising several concerns among the health professions. Although the need to respect budgetary restraints is recognised, it is equally important to assess the impact that any budgetary plan can have upon health policy. Since there is no economic growth without investments in health, we call on EU policy-makers and Member States to make sure that health is adequately taken into account in the next EU budget.



Miriam D’Ambrosio, Communication and Project Officer