Health care and long-term care for the elderly

Key points:

Given that European legislation on long-term health care is impossible, the EESC considers that the open method of coordination is of primary importance for the effective modernisation and development of accessible, sustainable, long-term quality health care, and to ensure public health protection in different contexts and in the face of growing pressure and challenges.

The application of the open method of coordination entails the identification of indicators that can address existing knowledge deficits whilst taking into consideration prevailing situations and the long-term social dynamics that impact upon the health-care system. The set of indicators must include all structural considerations (network of services, availability of equipment and staff, levels of training and experience, etc.). It must also include the intrinsic qualities of health care (methods for providing services and carrying out interventions, operational guidelines, medical regulations and practice, patient rights' protection, etc.). Finally, it must cover the quality of specific health-care outcomes, according to type and social expectations.

The “next steps” proposed in the Communication touch on extremely important aspects of the problem and extend the debate to pertinent spheres of interest. However, the proposals are general in nature and therefore run the risk of failing to take the open method of coordination significantly forward.

The EESC hopes that more precise “common objectives” will be identified, provided that they are not overprescriptive and do not have a negative impact on the organisation of national systems.

Furthermore, the proposed preliminary reports should serve as useful tools that do not result in additional administrative costs and burdens that overstretch the limited resources of new Member States.

A particularly important and pressing need is the promotion of activities to improve the skills of operators and professionals by developing appropriate training schemes that cover the common professional ground between health care and health-related social work. This goes beyond technical aspects and requires the acquisition of new skills, such as information management, in particular using computer networks, and broad-based financial administration. Such new training schemes should be supported and promoted by the Community in order to exploit the experience exchanged
using the open method of coordination.