Dr Andrey Kovatchev, MEP, hosting the meeting, will lead in the setting up of an interest group of MEPs to address health inequalities and to promote equal access. The meeting also laid the foundations for the establishment of an EU partnership on patients’ access and equity.
“Access to high quality healthcare is a fundamental citizen’s right. However patients leaders are very aware that disparities in access exist and are even more pronounced due to the economic crisis and austerity measure” said Dr. Stanimir Hasardzhiev from National Patients’ Organization (NPO), Bulgaria. This emerged from official results of the patients’ survey on health inequalities initiated as a follow-up of the first conference on the same theme. 256 patient advocates responded to this research conducted in the 12 new EU Member States and the three candidate countries.
“Inequalities start with early detection”, explained Eric Briers, Secretary of Europa Uomo, the European Prostate Cancer Coalition. The education of patients indeed plays a decisive role in the detection of their condition and they are not equally equipped to act consequently. This further applies to the inequalities in terms of services, equipment, treatment, etc. Achim Kautz, Policy Director at the European Liver Patients’ Association, also highlighted the fact that even where good medication exists, accessing it appropriately remains a core issue for many patients.
Ms. Dessislava Dimitrova, Chair of the Standing Committee of the WHO Regional Committee, proposed the establishment of a European Partnership for equity of access to quality healthcare as one way forward. EPF will develop this idea and initiate consultation process with EU and health stakeholders.
Leading MEPs’ champions for patients’ rights announced the launch of an interest group that will aim at reducing health inequalities while fighting for high quality accessible healthcare. They want to reiterate the urgency of the situation which is a European problem, not only existing in the new EU member states and candidate countries.
MEP Antonia Parvanova called for health to be included in the Treaty of the European Union to make sure everyone takes up the cause. She said she will dedicate all her expertise to reach such an ambitious goal.
Nicola Bedlington, EPF Executive Director concluded “This conference has been a real milestone in putting access and equity issues for patients on the agenda and decision makers and the health community moving forward together real solutions to put an end to the unacceptable and dramatic situation faced by many patients across the EU.”