Viewpoint - Patient power

The Euro elections on 22 May offer people with long-term conditions a chance to voice their opinions, says Robert A Johnstone

With EU elections fast approaching, European patients are also part of the action.

The European Patients’ Forum (EPF) represents 63 patient groups and the interests of an estimated 150 million people with chronic diseases in Europe.

It launched a campaign to make clear to election candidates what patients need and expect over the next five years.

In our election manifesto, Patients + Participation = Our Vote for a Healthier Europe, we call on candidates for the European Parliament to commit to breaking down access barriers.

Access to quality healthcare is a basic EU citizens’ right. Yet it is still not a reality for many of us – a situation made worse by the economic crisis.

Access means treatments must be available, and affordable. Access also means non-discrimination.

All patients in the EU deserve equitable access to the range of healthcare services they need, including physiotherapy.

Breaking down health inequalities is good for health systems.

If we, the patients and healthcare users, do not get the care we need at the right time, we may develop more severe illness, reducing our capacity to live a full and productive life and increasing health, social and economic costs.

The multiple forms of health and other discrimination faced by patients with chronic diseases and vulnerable groups was the focus of a landmark conference ‘Health in Europe, making it fairer’.

This event, held in Brussels in March, was organised by the EU department with responsibility for health and consumers.

The conference sent a strong message to the Council of Ministers. We believe that the EU and member states’ equal treatment legislation should protect patients and citizens from discrimination.

Europe has a long way to go if it is to live up to its pledges to improve the health and living standards of people living on a low income and individuals with chronic diseases.

The fight against health inequalities and the skyrocketing rates of poverty among people with disabilities or chronic conditions must be at the heart of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

For more information, visit EPF
Robert A Johnstone is a board member, European Patients’ Forum

Robert A Johnstone

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