The pandemic has been a brutal reminder of the importance of healthcare systems. Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions were accepted by the public as a way to help “flatten the curve” and preserve healthcare capacity. Images of overwhelmed ICUs and exhausted nurses and doctors have become a fixture of the COVID-19 crisis, and public cheering and clapping for healthcare workers became commonplace (at least during the initial phase of the pandemic).

The think tank Friends of Europe discussed the future of European healthcare on 22 March 2021 during their online event “A European prescription for smart, resilient health systems”.

Will coronavirus prompt a debate around the future of healthcare? In the US, for example, could it encourage the “Europeanisation” of their healthcare model? What about the debate in Europe? What sort of healthcare model (or models) should we aim for in the wake of the pandemic?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Jevgeni, who wants to see at least common minimum quality standards for healthcare set across the EU. Should European healthcare adopt a more unified approach?

To get a reaction, we put Jevgeni’s comment to Tamsin Rose, Senior Fellow for Health at Friends of Europe. How would she respond?

Well, how each country organises their healthcare is a national responsibility. However, in our modern age, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are big differences across Europe; what kind of procedures and treatments patients can access in their country is vastly different, usually dependent on how big their country is and how much money it has, i.e. how much it can afford to spend on healthcare.

Obviously, patients find this unfair. So, it would certainly be a good idea if we had a more European approach. Maybe we could look at the way that we deal with social security where we have, at the European level, minimum levels of maternity leave, paternity leave, sick pay, etc.

Of course, countries are free to be more generous, and many of them are. But we could have this minimum level of healthcare that European citizens can guarantee they will have access to. And, maybe that’s where we should be starting from. Of course, the devil is in the detail; how do we agree what would be the minimum basket of healthcare that each citizen could be guaranteed to receive?

For another perspective, we also put Jevgeni’s comment to Jo Maes, Chair of the cross-border patients organisation European Empowerment for Customised Solutions (EPECS). What would he say?

To answer this question, I think we first need to promote a new definition of health, to replace the World Health Organization’s definition of health from 1948. The new definition of health should be based on the concept of ‘positive health’ [proposed by Louis Bolk Institute researchers Machteld Huber and Marja van Vliet].

Positive health is something for you and me, as European citizens. The positive health definition is that health is ‘the ability to adapt and self-manage, in light of the physical, emotional and social challenges of life‘. And this new positive health definition should be the basis for implementing new healthcare systems, as healthcare systems are a response to health problems.

My idea, the idea of EPECS, the idea of positive health is: healthcare should start with patients, with you and me. How can you and I manage our health? And we can do this already when we are small children. So, health should be integrated into primary schools, it should be integrated into all the services, including welfare services. Because, with this new definition of ‘positive health’, everybody can get access to it as a tool and you and I are invited to manage our own health.

Positive health is also not only about being physically healthy, but also asking whether we are appreciated as human beings. Are we invited to participate in society? Do we have a job? I mean, there is a very important relationship between health and having a job, having to do something. So, let’s start at that point in Europe. That would be my first response to this very important question, and then the healthcare systems will follow. And they will adapt to you and I, we, as European citizens picking up and managing our own positive health.

Should we have a European healthcare system? Should cross-border healthcare be more common across the EU? Or should the aim be for citizens to receive healthcare in their country of origin, paid for by their own taxes? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash


32 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Kahraman Marangoz

    Yes we should. As Europe you have to unite in building and also if needed improving the healthcare system. There is a motivation need. Now Europe is started there is no way back to look for excuses and give up. This is about building a nation named Europe. Building a European healthcare systems is realistic, is possible.

    • avatar
      Sabina Benerdette

      ree

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Yes we should

  2. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Another one of these disguised integration topics!

    Those who wonder about think tanks- please visit the ‘Think Tank Directory Europe’ etc:

    http://eu.thinktankdirectory.org/

    Q: Where are our comments embedded?

    • If one considers there are ~5,500- 7,500 think tanks globally, then limit & look at the many “think tanks” classified as political and economic think tanks based in Europe = ~113, then-

    * further categorized into ‘European INTEGRATION think tanks” (=ideological), which have as their ‘unstated’ aim a USE= 17.

    • At last we have found “Friends of Europe” (DE) as one of the a. m. 17- where we are conditionally welcomed to comment!

    • One needs to thank FoE/DE for the ‘privilege’ to voice our political displeasures & pleasures!

    • Q & Q: How is it possible “NOT to push any specific political or business interest.” and still obtain funding from all openly (USE) EU integration-friendly donors?

    • It appears to be quite a competitive & crowded think tank environment to survive in. One can even feel pity for some of them!

    Finally, my answer to this disguised DE- EU integration question is:

    We probably have several good national systems most suited & deserving to every citizen within the present (never to be 100% equal) 27 Member Nations club. Measured by affordability, efficiency, citizens’ trust & track record.

    Further, it depends very much on good or bad national governance & how parliamentarians prioritize the many allocations in their annual budget.

    Does the FoE/DE suggest that the EU should interfere in the future with all national budgets?

    Please forget it!

    • Please sort the wheat from the chaff first!

    • Why not aim first to achieve equal technical standards, norms, dedication to service, equal comparable ethical & honest governance.

    Sorry, in the meantime please look for more suitable & basic spheres of “integration”!

  3. avatar
    f_bruso06

    I’m in Europe (Italy) and this doesn’t work well in exchange for the huge taxation we have. And moreover: You have a possible cancer? Wait 6 months for a screening. Got it? Wait weeks or months for starting a serious therapy (depends on the location of the hospital, but it’s all similar)

  4. avatar
    bley64

    I am a part of it from 1994. Health it is more important than … #Mars

  5. avatar
    wilhelmmiklus

    Bring it on! Centralized healthcare from Brussels

  6. avatar
    Yvonne

    Yes ..definatly..in Ireland our healthcare system is improving all the time..but germany and france have great healthcare systems in place..we are improving..a european healthcare system would be great :D

  7. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should we have a European healthcare system?

    And who will you have providing this healthcare? The concept runs counter to the money making outfits you allow to falsely claim they have your interests at heart.

    Example, the ‘new’ idea in private medicine, you must pay the medical facility or practitioner before you show up. Sometimes two or three weeks before you attend. Of course if you die before you see them they lose nothing.

    Universal healthcare is a concept of a civilised community. Where will you find consent for such a concept today? Not to mention the ability to understand what ‘healthcare’ entails in practice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ywP8wjfOx4&ab_channel=RickB

    How the concept was conceived in the mind of its users.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb6smSWpkig&ab_channel=NHSEnglandandNHSImprovement

    And today, what it has come to as the main talking point of changes needed in this lacking service. Less accountability of course.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?

    v=5dJB4Hm3zVs&ab_channel=MandrillVideoProduction

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should we have a European healthcare system?

    And who will you have providing this healthcare? The concept runs counter to the money making outfits you allow to falsely claim they have your interests at heart.

    Example, the ‘new’ idea in private medicine, you must pay the medical facility or practitioner before you show up. Sometimes two or three weeks before you attend. Of course if you die before you see them they lose nothing.

    Universal healthcare is a concept of a civilised community. Where will you find consent for such a concept today? Not to mention the ability to understand what ‘healthcare’ entails in practice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ywP8wjfOx4&ab_channel=RickB

    How the concept was conceived in the mind of its users.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb6smSWpkig&ab_channel=NHSEnglandandNHSImprovement

    And today, what it has come to as the main talking point of changes needed in this lacking service. Less accountability of course.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Should we have a European healthcare system?

      For some reason the video added with todays NHS staff discussing their present worries about diversity issues was excluded in the post above.

      Here is the picture of our NHS as it is today. The comparisons are light years apart.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT-LeDRlebM&ab_channel=SkyNews

  9. avatar
    Bernard

    No. The way the health care system is organized differs greatly from country to country. Even national systems are prone to bureaucracy. Having one European system will only complicate matters.

  10. avatar
    Michał

    No. It’s bad enough that even Poland’s “right wing” government is on board with your vaccine passports and all the other nonsense. [No, I’m not an anti-vaxer, thanks for asking, I just like to read the fine print and I have some common sense.]But also, there is no way I intend to share a healthcare system with people who support euthanasia (aka, murder), and ones who can’t stand the thought that somewhere in the world, some country doesn’t allow abortion (also murder. I was surprised to learn just a few years ago that biological science very much considers life to begin at conception). It’s kind of a waste of time even trying to conceive of any shared future with people like that.

  11. avatar
    Tihomir

    kind of. There should be an EU wide healthcare framework, that synchronizes the local systems. A federative budget should be allocated that will push/plan and oversee the (re-)digitalization of the local systems. A complete override of the local systems is not practical in the current situation, and will result in both political and economical tensions. A unified digital and legal framework, with somewhat equalized capabilities for case/resource management, tracking should naturally grow towards a unified system with minimal to no effort. What we need to keep in mind however, is that healthcare has two distinct branches- prevention and therapy, and while the second is institutionalized, the first is hard to define/frame.

  12. avatar
    Chris

    How many times do the populations of Europe say no to supra national socialism?

  13. avatar
    Bert van Santen

    NO!!!! With the huge mess in the EU around the vaccins has the EU and Mrs Von der Leyen proven not to be capable of handling these problems.

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