Member States agree that patient safety is the main EU health policy priority

11 December 2013, Last updated at, 09:16 EEST
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author: The Council of the European Union

During the second day of Employment, Social policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council meeting the EU Ministers of Health reviewed the state of play in the on-going legislative dossiers, namely the package on Medical Devices and In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices, the negotiations between the co-legislators with regard to the Tobacco Products Directive, Clinical trials and European Medicine Agency (EMA) fees. The Ministers unanimously adopted Council Conclusions on the Reflection Process on Modern, Responsive and Sustainable Health Systems, prepared by the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

“The EU Member States have to be proactive. Our healthcare systems have to be ready to withstand current and future challenges. The EU citizens have rightful expectations. While making decisions on future healthcare systems we, the EU Ministers of Health, have to consider these expectations seriously,” said the Chair of the Council Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis.

In the Conclusions the Member States acknowledge the core role of health for the economic prosperity and stress the importance of the principles of solidarity, universal health care accessibility as well as the horizontal principle “health in all policies”. The document provides the EU Member States with the guidelines on how to ensure that national health systems are resilient to demographic, economic and technological changes. The Ministers supported measures necessary for better co-ordination at national and EU level and means for more effective use of European Structural and Investment Funds for health investments.

The Lithuanian Presidency informed the Council about the good progress achieved in the on-going negotiations with the European Parliament with regard to the Tobacco Products Directive, and assured of its aim to conclude them until the end of the year.

“With medical expenses of over 25.3 billion Euros and more than 700.000 smoking related deaths per year, the EU has rightfully decided to review the Tobacco Products Directive. The need to reduce smoking among the youth, tackling of illegal trade and regulation of marketing and advertising of tobacco products are certainly among our main objectives,” said the Lithuanian Minister. He added, that the debate on regulating electronic cigarettes should be concluded soon. All in all, the Minister expressed hope that the co-legislators will come to a common understanding on all major outstanding issues during the two remaining informal trilogues.

The Council examined Presidency progress reports on Medical Devices and held an exchange of views on the proposals in order to give guidance for the future Presidencies. The Ministers of Health debated on how to improve safety of patients by promoting innovations and reduction of administrative burden on national authorities. With regard to the current Proposals, the Member States raised the need to harmonize the provisions for recycling of high risk single-use medical devises and the challenge of ensuring the adequate market surveillance by the designated notified bodies of the Member States.

Minister V. P. Andriukaitis briefed the Council about the outcomes of the conferences organised during the Lithuanian Presidency. He noted, that the Presidency always followed the principle that "we should invest into maintenance of health in the first place, before we have to spend on disease treatment".

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