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European Semester: All Member States should strengthen resilience of their health systems

Today, the Commission adopted proposals for country-specific recommendations that require each Member State to take steps to strengthen the resilience of its national health system. It is the first time, in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, that the Commission has proposed health recommendations to all Member States.

The health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed an apparent need to ensure and strengthen the resilience of the EU’s national health systems, i.e. their capacity to efficiently tackle shocks, such as the COVID-19 epidemic, as well as longer-term structural changes to shield against any potential future crises.

Overall, COVID-19 has aggravated the performance of several countries that, prior to the onset of the pandemic, were already experiencing structural and long-term challenges related to the resilience, accessibility and efficiency of their health systems. These challenges have been the subject of various country-specific recommendations in the past.

The proposals for health recommendations are tailor-made to each Member State. They take into account specific structural challenges related not just to the short-term resilience of the respective health system (e.g. to ensure the availability of intensive care beds and of critical medical products such as personal protective equipment and ventilators), but also to the access to and the effectiveness of health care.

Among the longer-term issues highlighted in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis are the working conditions of doctors and nurses and shortages of health workers, as well as the insufficient financing of certain health system segments. High out-of-pocket payments and unmet needs for medical care for patients are also an issue, which can disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. Additionally, in some Member States the crisis has shown an insufficient capacity of the primary care sector.

The crisis also brought to the fore the untapped potential for the deployment and use of e-Health services, with insufficient coordination and cooperation between health care providers, and a limited integration of health and social care services, in particular elderly care.

The country-specific recommendations on health are as follows:

Austria

Improve the resilience of the health system by strengthening public health and primary care.

Belgium

Reinforce the overall resilience of the health system and ensure the supply of critical medical products.

Bulgaria

Mobilise adequate financial resources to strengthen the resilience, accessibility and capacity of the health system, and ensure a balanced geographical distribution of health workers.

Croatia

Enhance the resilience of the health system. Promote balanced geographical distribution of health workers and facilities, closer cooperation between all levels of administration and investments in e-Health.

Cyprus

Strengthen the resilience and capacity of the health system to ensure quality and affordable services, including by improving health workers’ working conditions.

Czechia

Ensure the resilience of the health system, strengthen the availability of health workers, primary care and the integration of care, and deployment of e-Health services.

Denmark

Enhance the resilience of the health system, including by ensuring sufficient critical medical products and addressing the shortage of health workers.

Estonia

Improve the accessibility and resilience of the health system, including by addressing the shortages of health workers, strengthening primary care and ensuring the supply of critical medical products.

Finland

Address shortages of health workers to strengthen the resilience of the health system and improve access to social and health services.

France

Strengthen the resilience of the health system by ensuring adequate supplies of critical medical products and a balanced distribution of health workers, and by investing in e-Health.

Germany

Mobilise adequate resources and strengthen the resilience of the health system, including by deploying e-Health services.

Greece

Strengthen the resilience of the health system and ensure adequate and equal access to healthcare.

Hungary

Address shortages of health workers and ensure an adequate supply of critical medical products and infrastructure to increase the resilience of the health system. Improve access to quality preventive and primary care services.

Ireland

Improve accessibility of the health system and strengthen its resilience, including by responding to health workforce’s needs and ensuring universal coverage to primary care.

Italy

Strengthen the resilience and capacity of the health system, in the areas of health workers, critical medical products and infrastructure. Enhance coordination between national and regional authorities.

Latvia

Strengthen the resilience and accessibility of the health system including by providing additional human and financial resources.

Lithuania

Strengthen the resilience of the health system, including by mobilising adequate funding and addressing shortages in the health workforce and of critical medical products. Improve the accessibility and quality of health services.

Luxembourg

Improve the resilience of the health system by ensuring appropriate availability of health workers. Accelerate reforms to improve the governance of the health system and e-Health.

Malta

Strengthen the resilience of the health system with regard to the health workforce, critical medical products and primary care.

Netherlands

Strengthen the resilience of the health system, including by tackling the existing shortages of health workers and stepping up the deployment of relevant e-Health tools.

Poland

Improve resilience, accessibility and effectiveness of the health system, including by providing sufficient resources and accelerating the deployment of e-Health services.

Portugal

Strengthen the resilience of the health system and ensure equal access to quality health and long-term care.

Romania

Strengthen the resilience of the health system,  including in the areas of health workers and  medical products, and improve access to health services

Slovakia

Strengthen the resilience of the health system in the areas of health workforce, critical medical   products and infrastructure. Improve primary   care provision and coordination between types of care

Slovenia

Ensure the resilience of the health and long-term care system, including by providing the adequate supply of critical medical products and addressing the shortage of health workers.

Spain

Strengthen the health system’s resilience and capacity, as regards health workers, critical medical products and infrastructure.

Sweden

Ensure the resilience of the health system, including through adequate supplies of critical medical products, infrastructure and workforce.

United Kingdom

Strengthen the resilience of the health system.

The proposals for country specific recommendations will now be discussed in the Council, where Member States will discuss and vote on their final adoption. After their adoption, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the recommendations.

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