“Cross-border healthcare: is it working for patients across the EU”: EPF conference

On 2 July, the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) organised a conference on “Cross-border healthcare: is it working for patients across the EU?”. EPF is an umbrella organisation that works with patients’ groups in public health and health advocacy across Europe.

In 2011, the Directive on the application of patients’rights in cross-border healthcare (Directive 2011/24/UE) was adopted. The major aim of this new legislation was to clarify the existing rules on access and reimbursement of cross-border healthcare, as well as to promote high quality care in the EU.

In 2014, EPF organised a series of regional conferences in order to raise awareness on the directive as well as to assess the impacts of the legislation two years after it came into force. EPF then published a report on conclusions and recommendations resulting from these regional conferences.

In light of the EPF report, the aim of the conference was to explore improvements and gaps in the implementation of the directive from the perspective of patients and National Contact Points (NCPs), as well as to propose recommendations for the future.

In its opening remarks, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis underlined that the Commission observed a lack of effective and complete transposition of the directive in the Member States, which deters patients from using their rights in cross border healthcare.

Starting with the patients’ perspective, the main identified barriers were the following:

  • Financial barriers: problems of equity of access due to the upfront payment
  • Information gap: lack of awareness and complexity of the available information
  • Quality and safety issues: continuity of care and complaint procedures

Then, the conference focused on the role of NCPs, their current challenges and possible recommendations. In this way, it was stressed that NCPs should be more visible, easily accessible and provide information in other languages than the national language of their country.

Finally, three parallel interactive group sessions aimed at exploring specific priority topics within the directive. Participants proposed a set of recommendations including a better involvement of patients’ organisations in the monitoring of the directive’s implementation as well as the use of EU funds to support the payment of patients’ ancillary costs in cross border healthcare (e.g. travelling expenses).

The Commission report on the operation of the directive will be released in early September.

On 24-25 September, an informal meeting of EU Health Ministers will take place in Luxembourg to discuss the issue of the cross border healthcare directive implementation.

Presentations from the speakers are available at: http://www.eu-patient.eu/News/News/press-release-is-cross-border-healthcare-working-for-patients/