HEALTHCARE FOR THE ELDERLY
Commission Communication: "The future of healthcare and care for the elderly: guaranteeing accessibility, quality and financial viability".
|Document originated:||5 December 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:||6 December 2001
|Deposited in Parliament:||3 January 2002
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 21 January 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None
|To be discussed in Council:||March 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
12.1 Although the delivery of healthcare services is
a matter for Member States, the Community has been increasingly
involved in more general health aspects, and the Gothenburg European
Council in June 2001 called on the Council to prepare for its
meeting in Barcelona this March a progress report on guidelines
in the field of health and care for the elderly.
The current document
12.2 This Communication has been produced in response
to that call, and identifies a number of common issues which the
Commission says will affect the future provision of healthcare
within Member States, and which, taken together, it believes will
have consequences for the organisation and provision of healthcare
systems. These are the growing number of elderly people with their
distinctive health needs, the advancement of technology leading
to new treatments and medicines, and the continuing rise in patients'
expectations against a background of increased health education.
The Commission concludes that national care systems, while different
in design, delivery and funding, are confronted with similar core
challenges, such as those identified above, and it goes on to
propose three common objectives, namely:
- achieving universal access to healthcare and care for the
elderly, including those in disadvantaged groups;
- maintaining (and improving) high-quality healthcare and public
health objectives, whilst striking a balance between this aim
and the costs of medication and treatment;
- sustaining the financial viability of care systems in the
long run whilst maintaining overall quality and effectiveness.
The Commission also identifies the importance of the involvement
and cooperation of all the key players in these fields as an essential
prerequisite to attaining these objectives.
The Government's view
12.3 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 21 January 2002,
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of
Health (Yvette Cooper) says that the Government welcomes the Communication
as a good basis for discussion on the future challenges for Member
States' healthcare systems as a result of demographic ageing.
It agrees that all care systems within the Community are faced
with similar core challenges, although to varying degrees, and
believes that the Commission's suggestions for three common objectives
are a sound basis for future discussion and further work.
12.4 However, the Minister adds that the UK also welcomes
the acknowledgement in the Communication that the diversity of
funding and organisational arrangements is one of the main characteristics
of healthcare systems in the Community, and its reaffirmation
of the principle that "the organisation of health care systems,
their funding and planning as a function of the needs of the population
are a matter for Member States". She says that the Government's
goal will be to ensure that this crucial issue will receive the
necessary detailed consideration, and that solutions should not
be rushed. In particular, she stresses that any harmonisation
of care systems would not be an appropriate option; that it will
be necessary to avoid duplication with other international activity
in this field, as for example within the World Health Organisation;
and that it will be important to encourage the active participation
in this exercise of the candidate countries.
12.5 With a subject such as this, any document produced
by the Commission is bound to run the risk either of being over-prescriptive
(and hence of straying on to matters which are more properly the
preserve of Member States) or of relying on broad statements of
the obvious (which, on the whole, is the main charge we would
level against this Communication). Having said that, it touches
on a subject of wide, and growing, interest. For that reason,
we think it right, in clearing it, to draw it to the attention
of the House.