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EU’s first health report card - must do better

Report implies Europe must shift its focus to disease prevention

Europe

Europe’s national healthcare systems need a rethink if they are to remain fit for purpose, according to a new report from the European Commission.

The document - which covers all 28 current EU member states - examines the health of the population in each country, as well as the effectiveness, accessibility and resilience of health systems. Overall, the report makes uncomfortable reading.

It concludes that - in general - far too little emphasis is being placed on prevention of disease rather than treatment, while inadequacies in primary care still force around one in four (27%) of EU citizens to visit an emergency department rather than their doctor.

Patients need to navigate a “labyrinth of scattered health services” in nearly all EU countries as there is a lack of coordination between healthcare services, and understaffing is prevalent, with “many countries … confronted with critical health workforce problems such as supply, distribution and a traditionally oriented skill mix”.

Finally, despite many years of discussion and consensus-building about placing the patient at the centre of healthcare, capturing data from individual patients that could be used to gauge the effectiveness of prevention strategies or the integration of services remains below par.

“Spending only 3% of our health budgets on prevention, compared with 80% on the treatment of diseases, is simply not enough,” comments Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“We need better access to primary care so that the emergency room isn't people's first port of call. And we need to enshrine health promotion and disease prevention into all policy sectors to improve people's health and reduce pressure on health systems,” he added.

In the UK for example, the report notes that around half of years after age 65 on average are spent in ill health, with more needing to be done on obesity and binge drinking. Hospitals are running flat out, struggling with low bed numbers, high occupancy and short stays that are straining the system along with weaknesses in social care.

On the issue of workforce, the report says that “shortages persist and may be exacerbated by wage caps and by the UK’s intention to leave the EU, which creates uncertainty for the many foreign health and social care professionals in the country”.

Overall, the EU has 18 million healthcare professionals, with another 1.8 million jobs expected to be created by 2025, and health authorities need to prepare their workforce for the challenges posed by an increasingly aged population and ‘multimorbidity’, as well as to embrace new skills and technical innovations.

The EC sees great potential in the digital transformation of healthcare suggesting that capturing real-world outcomes - and experiences that matter to patients - has “great potential for strengthening the effectiveness of health systems”.

Article by
Phil Taylor

24th November 2017

From: Healthcare

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