An Informal Health Council meeting was held in Luxembourg on 24-25 September 2015 as part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council formation. The UK was represented by a senior official.
Among the issues discussed were prevention, removing stigma, early diagnosis and investment in research. The UK’s work on dementia was recognised and there was agreement on the need for further work following the World Health Organisation (WHO) conference that was held earlier in the year in March.
Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs)
A variety of views were expressed about whether regulation or a voluntary approach should be taken towards trans fatty acids (TFAs). Most Member States would await an upcoming Commission report on TFAs before taking a firm view. The UK outlined its national voluntary action to reduce TFAs and the importance of an evidence based approach. The Commissioner said that they were in the process of finalising the report and that it would be presented in December.
The UK outlined work it is undertaking with Syrian refugees in countries bordering Syria, called for a comprehensive approach to the crisis, and referred to the work of the Health Security Committee. The Commission called for solidarity and outlined the extra funding that had been allocated as well as a letter that had been sent to all Ministers on this issue.
A vast majority of Member States argued strongly against the involvement of the European Semester in healthcare. The UK welcomed the recent narrower focus of the semester and called for it to concentrate on sustainability and cost effectiveness. The UK also called for Health Ministers to be more involved in the Social Protection Committee process on matters relating to healthcare.
Cross Border Directive
Most Member States were positive about progress that has been made on the Cross-Border Directive, with a number suggesting that patients should be better informed about their rights. The UK welcomed the Commission’s report on the operation of the Directive but added that, whilst the principles of the Directive are sound, more needs to be done at EU level to clarify and simplify the interaction of this new legislation with existing patient mobility rules (the EU Social Security Coordination Regulations).