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Procedure : 2004/2148(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0129/2005

Texts tabled :

A6-0129/2005

Debates :

PV 07/06/2005 - 17

Votes :

PV 09/06/2005 - 9.8

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2005)0236

Texts adopted
PDF 159kWORD 72k
Thursday, 9 June 2005 - Strasbourg
Patient mobility and healthcare developments
P6_TA(2005)0236A6-0129/2005

European Parliament resolution on patient mobility and healthcare developments in the European Union (2004/2148(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission - Follow-up to the high level reflection process on patient mobility and healthcare developments in the European Union (COM(2004)0301) ("Commission communication on patient mobility"),

–   having regard to Article 152 and Articles 5, 18, 43 and 47 of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Modernising social protection for the development of high-quality, accessible and sustainable health care and long-term care: support for the national strategies using the "open method of coordination" (COM(2004)0304) ("Commission communication on extending the "open method of coordination'"),

–   having regard to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(1),

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - e-Health – making health care better for European citizens: an action plan for a European e-Health Area (COM(2004)0356),

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - eEurope 2002: Quality Criteria for Health related Websites (COM(2002)0667),

–   having regard to the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Communities ("European Court of Justice") in Decker (C-120/95, 28 April 1998), Kohll (C-158/96, 28 April 1998), Geraets-Smits & Peerbooms (C-157/99, 12 July 2001), IKA (C-326/00, 25 February 2003) and Müller-Fauré & van Riet (C-385/99, 13 May 2003),

–   having regard to the Commission Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications (COM(2002)0119),

–   having regard to the Commission Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market (COM(2004)0002),

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2003 on the future of health care and care for the elderly(2) and its resolution of 11 March 2004 on health care and care for the elderly(3),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A6-0129/2005),

A.   whereas healthcare in the EU is being transformed by developments in medicine, technology, e-health, patient awareness and law,

B.   whereas the E111 system for unplanned health treatment when temporarily in another Member State is being superseded by the European Health Card, and whereas there is a need to replace, or significantly change, the bureaucratic and restrictive E112 system for planned health treatment in another Member State,

C.   whereas prevention represents a key element of a comprehensive health policy and systematic preventive measures increase life expectancy, lessen discrepancies between social groups in terms of waiting times in the healthcare system and stop the spread of chronic illnesses, thereby allowing reductions in treatment costs,

D.   whereas European health policy is being driven in a piecemeal fashion by European Court of Justice rulings on patient mobility, and the process of enlargement will bring even more complex cases for the European Court of Justice to deal with; whereas it is in both patients' and governments' interests that clear guidance on policy and procedures should be agreed and put in place without delay,

E.   whereas primary responsibility for the organisation, financing and delivery of health services and medical care lies with the Member States, while the European Union has a responsibility in the fields of public health, health promotion, research and early detection and a role in cross-border mobility,

F.   whereas further clarity is needed to enable patients, healthcare professionals and health budget holders and insurers to understand and participate in cross-border and transnational healthcare,

G.   whereas there are significant logistical, administrative, cultural and clinical challenges in delivering a consistent, safe and accessible patient mobility framework for the EU,

H.   whereas healthcare systems in the Union are founded on the principles of solidarity, equity and universality, in order to guarantee that all persons, regardless of their income, wealth and age, receive appropriate, high-quality care in the event of sickness,

I.   whereas patient mobility is a complex issue owing to differences in national healthcare systems and traditions; whereas, however, this should not prevent efforts being made to resolve coordination and efficiency problems facing users and to improve services,

1.  Welcomes the Commission communication on patient mobility and the ideas it outlines for structuring cooperation in healthcare;

2.  Stresses the need, with due regard for the priority of maintaining and ensuring unrestricted and universal access to the public health service, for the European Union to develop urgently a coherent policy on patient mobility in the light of the judgments of the European Court of Justice and the report of the High Level Process of Reflection on patient mobility and healthcare developments in the European Union ("Reflection Process"), and to agree guidelines for use by patients, health professionals and funding agencies; believes that as a minimum the patient who suffers from a life-threatening condition should have a right and the possibility to seek timely treatment in another Member State, if this is not available in his/her own country or not within a reasonable period of time;

3.  Believes that further cooperation between the Member States, coordinated by the Commission where appropriate, should concentrate on the specific issues related to cross-border health care; believes that, at the same time, particular attention should be paid to aspects of regional cooperation, and that the experiences gained in border regions should be taken into account appropriately; considers that in this way, solutions tailored to specific regions can be sought to meet people's needs and that practical experiences can be used in the form of best practice models;

4.  Believes that the issue of patient mobility needs a separate Commission proposal and that the Services Directive should concentrate on service mobility rather than patient mobility, but that the Services Directive should incorporate a call to the Commission to bring forward a proposal on patient mobility within six months of that measure entering into force;  further believes that this proposal should be based on the work of the High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care and should address in particular a framework for guidance to patients, health professionals and health budget managers and proposals to cover information to patients and patient security and confidentiality;

5.  Regrets that the Commission communication on patient mobility does not provide a timetable for action and does not make any commitment to an integrated policy on patient mobility;

6.  Considers that the open method of coordination is an appropriate framework for dealing with patient mobility issues, without simultaneously excluding cooperation between States on matters for which Member States' health services are responsible;

7.  Believes that guidelines should include procedures to obtain treatment, sources of information about health professionals and healthcare facilities, mechanisms for paying for care, arrangements for travel and linguistic support, arrangements for continuing care, follow-up, convalescence and rehabilitation prior to or after return, complaints and other related procedures and special care for the elderly and pensioners; points out that mechanisms of payment for care should be uniform and impartial so as to avoid inequalities and the creation of disadvantages to certain patients;

8.  Considers it essential to promote cross-border cooperation in order to provide effective or urgent treatment, primarily in the case of emergencies, chronic disease, and serious illness or allergy;

9.  Welcomes the Commission communication on extending the "open method of coordination" to healthcare and long-term care and looks forward to follow-up work to provide a mechanism for structuring cooperation between Member States with specific objectives and regular reviews;

10.  Calls for an overall scientific approach aimed at structuring the process of the open method of coordination in the best possible way; considers that this requires Europe-wide data compatibility as well as a central metalevel index, and that it should be investigated to what extent the data already available can be integrated;

11.  Welcomes the 2005 workplan of the Commission's Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General, established under the Public Health Framework Programme which includes pilot proposals for cross-border co-operation in health services, to help develop cooperation and to identify potential benefits and problems associated with such cooperation;

12.  Considers the lack of progress on patient information as a serious threat to the development of healthcare in the EU and in particular to the attainment of patient mobility; calls upon the Commission and the Council urgently to bring forward a framework for everyday patient information;

13.  Criticises the fact that a coordination of the views of the rights and duties of patients – as recommended by the Reflection Process – has not yet been carried out, and calls on the Council and the Commission to do so without delay; calls on the Member States to adopt a patients" law or patients" charter in which patients are granted, among others, the following rights:

   the right to appropriate and qualified medical care provided by qualified medical staff,
   the right to easily understandable, expert and appropriate information and advice from the physician,
   the right to self-determination based on full information,
   the right to treatment records and to inspection thereof,
   the right to confidentiality and data protection,
   the right to make a complaint,
   the guarantee that no observation or medical experiments will be carried out without prior patient consent;

14.  Believes that although Member States are better placed to develop clear national patient information guidance relevant to their national health systems this should not prevent the Commission from establishing common core elements on patient information, drawing up a guide to health services and setting out the rights and duties of patients, the treatment covered and reimbursement details;

15.  Calls on the Commission to consider, while respecting national rules, harmonisation of the procedures with regard to reimbursement of costs, as established by Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems(4) as well as by the judgments of the European Court of Justice, with a view to establishing legal certainty for patients in the area of reimbursement;

16.  Calls upon the Commission to produce a set of guidelines on core patient mobility issues by 1 January 2007; believes that these should be supported by national guidelines produced by Member States within a further 12 months;

17.  Considers that priority should be given, in the context of patient mobility, to adopting guidelines concerning access to treatments which do not exist in the patient's Member State of origin and treatments for which there is an urgent need but no possibility of immediate availability in the patient's Member State of origin;

18.  Considers it essential that Member States adopt rules on prescribing, the carrying out of prescription orders, and the reimbursement of payments made for drugs by patients in another Member State with a view to further facilitating patient mobility between Member States;

19.  Encourages the Commission to set deadlines for the collection and evaluation of data on existing cross-border movement of patients and calls on the Commission to make the findings of such studies known as soon as possible; reiterates the value of evaluating and sharing the experience of cross-border agreements such as the Euregio projects;

20.  Calls for a report from the Commission on the nature and prevalence of health tourism and the extent to which it is currently reimbursed by statutory agencies and by the private insurance sector or paid out of pocket;

21.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to draw up a report by June 2007 on the extent of patient mobility and the services received by visitors and residents in both the public and private sectors;

22.  Calls on the Member States to present in good time a clear and transparent framework for cross-border healthcare purchasing as announced for this year by the High-Level Group;

23.  Strongly endorses efforts to improve knowledge and legislation on the movement of health and social care professionals; reminds the Commission that effective mechanisms to support high levels of patient safety must be incorporated in the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications;

24.  Recognises the work being undertaken to establish an EU-wide register of doctors and other health and care professionals suspended or struck off for incompetence or malpractice; believes that this should be accessible to patients and health purchasers; and requests regular progress reports from the Commission;

25.  Highlights the potential risk of a 'brain drain' from the new Member States to those offering higher salaries, with a subsequent threat to the capacity and standard of their healthcare systems; therefore encourages research into possible impacts of increased patient mobility on such movements, and research into the future demand for healthcare professionals and their supply through EU higher education systems;

26.  Emphasises that the free movement of patients constitutes an incentive also for national healthcare services to meet the highest possible standards and to encourage patients not to take the same treatment abroad by providing high-quality services;

27.  Welcomes efforts to move towards European Centres of Reference and the potential benefits that this will bring for treatment of rare diseases; recognises that patients affected by a rare disease or condition may often require greater support in accessing such specialist care; calls for the setting up of European Centres of Reference not to be limited to rare diseases but to be extended to cover all diseases for which a special concentration of resources and expertise is available; emphasises that, in addition to treating these diseases, European Centres of Reference should also play a prominent part in obtaining second opinions and in further training for medical specialists;

28.  Cautions that additional finances will be required to support a network of European Centres of Reference;

29.  Believes that the shared use of capacities, particularly in the case of specialised forms of care, can make an important contribution to increasing the effectiveness of healthcare services;

30.  Notes that in a University of York study of UK patients receiving treatment abroad 87% of patients stated the prospect of waiting longer for treatment in England as their motivation; nevertheless believes that the large majority of patients prefer and will continue to prefer to be treated as close to home as possible;

31.  Welcomes the Commission's commitment to upholding existing data protection law; notes the importance of providing an efficient and secure method of exchanging patient records between Member States;

32.  Welcomes the Commission communication setting out an "e-Health action plan", recognising that information and communication technologies, in particular the Internet, can help improve access to, and the quality and effectiveness of, health services, although it may also increase inequalities as a consequence of the "digital divide"; stresses the need to apply quality criteria for health-related websites; recognises the role that telemedicine and telepsychiatry could play in improving care options for patients and reducing the need for patient mobility; considers that account should also be taken of inequalities as regards the elderly and the illiterate;

33.  Encourages the Commission to monitor the deployment of the European Health Card in Member States to ensure that Member States are providing clear and comprehensible information to the public about how the card works;

34.  Asks the Commission to consider whether the European Health Card should form the basis for promoting a common approach to patient identifiers and developing new functions such as the storage of medical emergency data, in accordance with the eEurope 2005 Action Plan approved by the Seville European Council of 21 and 22 June 2002;

35.  Calls on the Commission to draw up a proposal for recording on the European Health Card, with the consent of the parties concerned, not only insurance details but also medical data relating to patients, thereby facilitating their mobility between Member States and likewise ensuring appropriate access to the care and treatment that their state of health requires;

36.  Requests that the Commission consider how the European Health Card can better relate to the needs of pensioners from one Member State temporarily residing or staying in another Member State;

37.  Notes, however, that there must be a high level of data protection in relation to any new functions of the European Health Card and that data stored on it and information exchanged between competent authorities must take account of existing provisions on data protection;

38.  Welcomes the establishment of the High Level Group in the Commission as well as the establishment of a Health Working Group meeting at official level in the Council; requests that the European Parliament receive regular updates from the Commission and from the Council on the Groups" activities; requests also that the European Parliament receive a report from the High Level Group every six months;

39.  Believes that patient safety is critical to the development of effective health policy in the EU; recognises the need to work closely with the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety; strongly encourages the High Level Group to bring forward proposals for an EU Patient Safety Network as soon as possible in 2005;

40.  Stresses that healthcare and patient safety considerations must be taken into account in the planning and implementation of policies in other areas; regrets the occasional friction between internal market and healthcare objectives; believes that the health of its citizens is a prerequisite to Europe's economic performance and competitiveness;

41.  Emphasises that the focal point of the whole system is the patient, who has a natural interest in his or her own health and in the quality and accessibility of healthcare, who is the recipient of care and who pays for the care he or she receives, whether directly or through health insurance or taxation; believes, therefore, that patients are fully entitled to be kept completely informed about their treatment and their state of health and are fully entitled to be involved in decision-making with regard to healthcare consumption;

42.  Believes that there is a need for a network of relevant information accessible to patients, health professionals and managers throughout the EU; welcomes, therefore, the establishment by the Commission of an EU Health Portal, and hopes that the Portal will be online by the end of 2005 as planned;

43.  Agrees that there is a need to provide citizens with legal certainty and a clear overview of their rights and duties as patients with regard to access to healthcare and reimbursement of costs incurred in another Member State;

44.  Considers it essential to draw up a Charter of Patients' Rights, which should cover, inter alia, matters relating to their mobility;

45.  Calls on the Commission to develop guidelines to clearly define terms such as "without undue delay", "standard practices", "comparable cost", "hospital care", "major out-patient care" and "minor out-patient care", and to ensure maximum uniformity between Member States on prior authorisation requirements and on the interpretation of the term "a medically justifiable time-limit";

46.  Stresses that cross-border healthcare should be delivered where necessary or in the event of temporary unacceptable delays in treatment; believes that the responsibility remains with Member States to ensure the existence of a public health service based on the principle of universal and unrestricted access that will make large-scale patient mobility unnecessary;

47.  Is concerned that the terms of treatment should not discriminate against low-income patients so that, for example, they do not have to pay the full cost of treatment before reimbursement;

48.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.
(2) OJ C 38 E, 12.2.2004, p. 269.
(3) OJ C 102 E, 28.4.2004, p. 862.
(4) OJ L 166, 30.4.2004, p. 1. Regulation last amended by Regulation (EC) No. 631/2004 (OJ L 100, 6.4.2004, P.7).

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