Policy Brief on the Future of Healthcare in Europe

policy brief on the future of healthcare in europe_nettikoko
Image: Kristina McArthur

A newly published policy brief, Future of Healthcare in Europe, accompanies the May 2011 conference co-organised by the Finnish Institute in London.

The policy brief draws together themes that emerged from the 2011 Future of Healthcare in Europe conference and the issues explored in the accompanying thought-pieces and the conference publication.

Healthcare in Europe – Meeting future challenges discusses four key ideas: health is more than a medical problem, maintaining high-quality healthcare, access to healthcare, and managing the costs of healthcare.

European governments face a growing number of major health challenges, which are putting unprecedented pressures on public health systems. These challenges include ageing population, health inequalities and social determinants of health. As main actors responsible for the delivery and financing of healthcare, generally based on the principle of social solidarity, European governments need to identify policy solutions in this and relevant non-health sectors to best address these challenges. Ensuring a multilevel and holistic response by governments will be important in tackling these challenges.

While states remain the main actors in healthcare policy in Europe, EU policies and law can influence healthcare delivery, particularly when considered in terms of the inter-relation between health and other sectors. While internal market rules ensuring the free movement of people and services can challenge domestic health sectors, there are also tangible benefits and opportunities of collaborating at EU level, not least the potential for coordinated policy.

Consideration of quality in healthcare requires examination of the different dimensions of quality, the impact of rationing devices, professional organisation and new models of healthcare delivery. Equity of access remains a central tenet of European healthcare systems but raises complex questions of equity, comprehensiveness, and financing, as well as placing the principle of social solidarity under increasing pressure.

The brief draws these key conclusions: social values become increasingly important as pressures on healthcare systems intensify; political will to reflect social values while delivering effective healthcare is essential; any renegotiation of the health social contract needs to be consistent with the demands of political accountability in a democratic society; it is unlikely that there is a single solution to responding to challenges in delivering healthcare costs; an integrated approach that takes account of the broader context is essential.

The high-level one day conference was convened by the Finnish Institute in London, the UCL European Institute and the UCL Grand Challenges. The event brought together leading academic experts, healthcare professionals, consultants and public policy officials to discuss the sector's key challenges, identify existing good practices and develop concrete policy recommendations. The conference was part of the Finnish Institute's initiative The Future of Public Services, which tackled the question of the roles of the public sector, the private sector, and the community sector in society.

The brief is published by the UCL European Institute together with the UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing and UCL Public Policy.

Read the full brief here.