Editorial, /

Editorial by HFE Vice-President Bert Van Caelenberg

As patients, carers of patients, friends of patients and ultimately future patients, many of us have been calling for healthcare policies to support a revolution towards innovative treatments, infrastructures, and communication tools. Enhancing community care, empowering patients and partnering with targeted key stakeholders should be part of this revolution and certainly part of a more holistic solution.

Patient centred policies for community care

Recent healthcare policy debates, frameworks, consultations and reports have been quick to advocate for more patient empowerment, more sustainability, more project specific targets and ultimately more and better care for patients. But those were just that, words. Traditional systems are failing to adapt to the demographic changes and new needs and demands of health stakeholders. Luckily, Member States are rapidly coming to that realisation as the financial pressure of the ‘old’ system weighs heavier and heavier. To meet these new demands, patients, their carers and healthcare professionals agreed at the recent Health First Europe event in collaboration with the Latvian Presidency that community care is the future and that we consequently need to take important steps to ensure that high quality care can be delivered to patients where, when and how they want it. Adaptability and flexibility are thus essential.

Why should Member states look to the EU to drive community care policy?

Healthcare is unquestionably a national competence and should remain so for the foreseeable future. But this cannot and should not mean the EU can’t play an important role in reforming healthcare systems across Europe. The EU has two distinguishable qualities relevant to us: it has expertise but more importantly it has perspective. This omniscient view of the European healthcare systems should allow the EU and by association the European Commission to act as the ‘beacon of light’ Member States trust to follow when in need. The key to leading nowadays lies in influence not authority. The EU should therefore:

  • Support the acceleration and standardization of community care services through technology
  • Encourage innovative healthcare systems processes, testing protocols, treatments and policies
  • Create and disseminate best practices at a pan-European level to help Member States learn from past experiences Orient current and future policies around patients and their support systems (whether formal or informal)
  • Cater to key stakeholders on a more personal level by recognizing the specificities of their statuses and demands.
  • Allow community care policy to become true through implementation of the necessary reforms. Reforms, not only in mentality, but also in the field (for example, not to see care at home as inferior to care delivered at the hospital).

The EU project on community care should focus on the big lines of the policy to be pursued for the promotion of community care and as such the personnel have to be explicitly mentioned. In order to make reforms a success, you need the personnel as the supportive base for those reforms. The personnel stand closest to the patient, so, they are the first line care deliverers.

Health First Europe’s role in this process

HFE’s mission is focused and aspires to complete one simple task: enable. Enable discussions, enable partnerships, but more importantly enable initiatives. We aim to bring decision-makers and key stakeholders together and provide them with a platform to allow us to advance in the same direction. We thus call for truly patient-centred healthcare and believe that every European citizen should and could benefit from more adapted care in an environment suitable to his/her needs. The patient should be centre stage, how much longer can we afford not to reform in consequence?