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HEALTH : LIBERALS PUSH PATIENTS' RIGHTS CHARTER.

The Group of Liberals in the European Parliament feels that the European Commission's future proposals on cross-border health services, expected in 2007, should also guarantee the rights of European citizens. The ALDE Group has therefore launched anainitiative for a European patient rights charter, which will form an integral part of the initiatives for patient mobility and the refunding of health care in the EU, the subject of a public consultation launched by the European Commission, which will remain open until 31 January 2007 (see Europolitics 3156).

An oral question on the subject will be addressed to the Commission during the next parliamentary session in Strasbourg in mid-November. The Commission will be questioned on how it intends to guarantee patient rights between member states, including the right to submit complaints and to obtain financial compensation. It will also be asked how it plans to differentiate between patients and health service consumers (plastic surgery, for example) and whether it intends to set up a European database to provide information for the patients.

Before asking these questions, the Liberals will try to unite as many MEPs as possible from all political groups to define the contents of the charter within the framework of a joint draft resolution.

In concrete terms, Europeans are "exposed to vast differences between member states in terms of the quality and safety of health care," explainedaEP observer Dr Antonia Parvanova (NMSII, Bulgaria). And yet, she continued, recognising the diplomas of health care professionals is not sufficient to guarantee high quality care. For example, in a resolution on breast cancer in the enlarged EU adopted on 25 October (see Europolitics 3177), MEPs mentioned that according to the World Health Organisation, the mortality rate due to breast cancer varies by more than 50% between different countries in the EU25.a a a

These figures show the urgent need to guarantee a "minimum quality" of health care throughout the EU, argued Dr Parvanova. She also recalled Article 12 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees a high level of health protection in the EU. European patients, and also consumers, should all have access to the same information, to an equal quality of health care (during and after treatment) and the same possibilities in choosing between treatments. The same is true for the insurers. They should also have access to the best references to be able to refund their clients' costs. According to one expert, patients and insurers should both be aware of how many people have died following a specific treatment.

The Liberals anticipate four pillars for their draft charter: the patient's safety, the quality of the care, risk management (cases of malpractice or medical error are tackled differently by different national regulators much to the detriment of patients, say the Liberals) and access to information (with the ability to choose between different types of treatment).

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Oct 27, 2006
Words:473
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