EESC opinion: Patients' rights

Key points:

Having addressed problems relating to health and patients' rights in a number of opinions, the EESC is now examining this proposal for a directive, especially since as well as presenting a response to the rulings of the European Court of Justice, the text concerns the rights of patients and steps to structure the coordination of European health policies in the Member States.

The EESC therefore raises questions about the specific application arrangements regarding the subsidiarity principle in health policy and makes some observations and recommendations.

The Committee is concerned that the Commission proposal risks widening differences in access to care among various groups in society.

The basic right of each user to enjoy the necessary guarantees of quality and safety creates obligations with regard to standardisation, certification and evaluation of material and human capacity, and organisation of healthcare.

Access to cross-border healthcare services requires that healthcare organisations in the different countries complement and counterbalance each other in terms of their capacity with respect to technical services and human resources, medical equipment and the responsibilities of service providers.

In the EESC's view, the text should not propose to make patient mobility common practice but should put forward a framework in which this right can be exercised, without neglecting the need for quality healthcare as close to the patient as possible.

The access to healthcare in another Member State offered to each citizen must be without discrimination as defined in Article 13 of the Treaty and must respect patients' rights as set out by the EESC.

An effective information policy is even more vital in relation to cross-border healthcare because it is the only way of honouring the principle of equality of access to care.

All systems for providing information must enable individuals to choose freely and make it easier to reconcile economic competitiveness, cohesion, social justice and collective solidarity.

Particular attention must be paid to ensuring continuity of care, patient follow-up, adjustment of medical devices and taking of medicines.

Aggregating the statistical data collected by the Member States should make it possible to evaluate the application of the Directive.