For European Patients’ Rights Day 2021, Active Citizenship Network, the European branch of the Italian non-profit organisation Cittadinanzattiva, discusses ten recommendations towards a European Health Union.
In the role of needed changes towards more resilient healthcare systems, it is necessary to recognise the key role of Patients’ Advocacy groups (PAGs), citizens’ organisations involved in healthcare issues and, more generally, of all actors that promote health as a common good. This is the message that came to light during the European conference of the 15th European Patients’ Rights Day, which started today and will end tomorrow, involving more than 150 civic society representatives from across Europe, members of the European Institutions and key stakeholders.
Resilient healthcare systems
The focus of the 2021 edition of the European Patients’ Rights Day is on the effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic on national health systems and how patient organisations faced it – offering answers to people and putting forward actions that should be put in place in order to have more resilient healthcare systems, starting from the 14 rights stated in the European Charter of Patients’ Rights (www.activecitizenship.net).
From their experiences emerged the great reforming force of civic organisations and PAGs, capable of responding promptly to new needs by managing services, building alliances, quickly signalling necessary normative or procedural changes, mobilising resources (both human and economic), introducing, and promoting practices adopted during the pandemic that would be beneficial to keep.
Mariano Votta, director of Active Citizenship Network, the European branch of Cittadinanzattiva, said: “An activism and involvement – in support of the institutions and for the benefit of local communities – that is not mentioned in the context of the Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on serious cross-border threats to health. The proposal reveals a serious lack which proves as completely unjustified in light of the lessons that we should have learnt from the pandemic.”
Despite the difficulties, this is a propitious historical moment: Member States have just sent their National Recovery Plans in which the issue of health is a key element; when the Conference on the Future of Europe starts, the hope is that health-related issues will be placed at the heart of the debate, as it will happen in the next Global Health Summit planned on 21 May 21, in Rome.
Votta added: “From the importance that will be given to health-related topics in this European political framework we will understand if the necessity to create a stronger European Health Union, as underlined by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is merely a claim or the actual direction taken by the European institutions, and the key point with which we’ll evaluate their work.”
Manifesto: ten recommendations
From the accounts of oncological and chronic patients during the pandemic, it emerged how they have been left almost alone for several months – a situation that jeopardised 20 years of prevention. Hence, Active Citizenship Network drafted a Manifesto with ten recommendations, which has been already signed by 32 associations from 15 countries, addressed to the institutions to address non-COVID patients’ unmet needs.
It also encourages forms of monitoring such as “Follow the Money” to monitor the funds of Recovery Plans that each European country is receiving and to engage European citizens to improve health systems.
As in any reconstruction, the involvement of many active and aware social and civic actors is crucial. The other eight recommendations are: to monitor COVID-19 impact on non-COVID-19 patients; to urgently secure safe access to diagnostic, immunisation, screening, and treatments; to secure well-resourced healthcare systems post COVID-19; to support the Digital Healthcare transition; to affirm a life-course approach for chronic diseases prevention; to strengthen a ‘One Health approach’ to prevent future pandemic; to develop a Manifesto for the rights of patients living with multi co-morbidity; and “Health for all EU citizens” must be placed at the heart of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The full Manifesto is available on ACN’s website.