Health System Issues

The key - and seemingly perpetual - challenge of health systems is to improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of health care systems.

In a succinct way the recent "Council Conclusions on Common Values and Principles in European Union Health Systems" summarise the goals and priorities of EU Member States. Universality, access to good quality care, equity, and solidarity constitute a set of overarching, shared values. Universality refers to the universal, i.e. for everyone, access to healthcare; solidarity relates to the financial dimension of ensuring accessibility to all and equity emphasises that access should be available according to needs, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, social status or monetary issues. Despite following different approaches, all EU health systems aim at ensuring healthcare provision, which is "patient-centred and responsive to individual need" 1.

Among these common values safety plays a prominent role: It refers to "a systematic approach to ensuring patient safety, including the management of risk factors. This includes adequate training for health professionals and protection against misleading information about health and healthcare." 1

The health systems of the European Union are a fundamental part of Europe's social infrastructure. The challenges is to reconcile individual needs with the available finances while the population ages, expectations rise and as medicine advances.

In 2001, the European Commission presented a "Community strategy against antimicrobial resistance". It was recognized, that in previous years the problem of antimicrobial resistance was addressed through an increasing number of isolated measures and with little results. The strategy outlines a comprehensive EU wide approach consisting of fifteen actions in four key areas: surveillance, prevention, research and product development, and international cooperation. The Commission also provided a set of detailed health actions to be taken, focusing on biological, compartmental and public health policies and programmes.

  1. Council Conclusions on Common Values and Principles in European Union Health Systems", published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 22 June 2006