Patient’s rights directive proposal: Further clarity needed

Godfrey Perera, Secretary General of HOSPEEM, today commented on the European Commission’s proposals in relation to the application of patients’ rights in cross border healthcare

“As hospital and healthcare employers, HOSPEEM welcomes any action that will benefit patients within the constraints of affordability for each Member State and which does not threaten the viability of health systems. Although HOSPEEM has concerns about some of the European Commission’s proposals, it is pleased that the Commission is trying to resolve the current impasse and uncertainty. HOSPEEM believes that healthcare should be guaranteed by a clear legislative framework and not be subject to uncertainty created by court judgements. It is also vital that issues such as patient safety, reimbursement of costs and the right to legal redress are resolved. However, the Directive, as currently drafted seems to go beyond the rulings of the ECJ, by making it very difficult for the Member States to ask for prior authorisation for hospital treatment abroad. This might have serious consequences for the organisation, financing and delivery of healthcare in European Member States.”

While patient’s rights to treatment abroad have been enshrined in European law, HOSPEEM believes that the Commission’s proposals also have the potential to create health inequalities. Although all patients will have rights to access healthcare in other Member States, only the mobile and well informed patients will be able to benefit. What about the patients who are not mobile? According to the Commission’s figures, they represent over 90% whose healthcare needs are met through care provided by their domestic system.

HOSPEEM takes the view that further clarification is needed about the authorisation process. We believe that patients should be required to go through prior authorisation procedures in their home country before seeking hospital care abroad and asking to be reimbursed for this care. Prior authorisation procedures allow healthcare systems to monitor their finances, plan the delivery of services and the management of the healthcare workforce.

HOSPEEM members believe it is important that when patients go abroad for treatment then their home health system, as the financer of the care, is able to decide what treatment is most appropriate. HOSPEEM takes the strong view that Member States should be able to retain the right to plan services and manage resources in order to ensure the financial viability of their health systemsand that the European Commission do not go beyond their competences in this area
HOSPEEM is concerned that the draft directive could also create extra bureaucratic burdens for health systems which could prove expensive and time consuming.

Therefore we want to ensure that all the ramifications of the Commissions’ proposals are properly considered and look forward to working closely with the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament, so that the views of European hospital and healthcare employers are taken in to account. Moreover, we look forward to see included into the debate the position of the hospital sector social partners as expressed in the joint statement on health services in the European Union.

To conclude, said Godfrey Perera, “We hope that the co-decision procedure will provide answers to the questions we are putting forward today and will give us back a text that will genuinely be helpful to all EU patients and healthcare providers.”

EPSU-HOSPEEM Joint declaration – December 2007