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Time to make progress on patient safety in Europe

15 June 2016

As Member of the European Parliament and medical physicist, I think it is time we make real progress on patient safety.  The EU is at a standstill when it comes to taking forward actions called for by the Parliament and the Council.  Now it is time for action.

Since my report “Resolution on Safer healthcare in Europe: improving patient safety and fighting antimicrobial resistance” was adopted in plenary on 19 May 2015, little has been done to set definitive and tangible targets for improving patient safety and quality of care throughout Europe – this, despite overwhelming support from my Parliamentary colleagues.

Time to compare Member States

That is why today I support Health First Europe in its publication of policy indicators to measure the quality and safety of healthcare systems for patients in Member States.  These policy indicators will be used to compare healthcare systems´ and to assess their achievements of the 11 recommendations already called for in the 2009 Council Recommendations on patient safety, as well as in my 2015 report.

Using its decade long work in the field of patient safety, Health First Europe believes that indicators for compliance must exist alongside standardised methodologies for achieving the defined indicators. These indicators should provide input to EU institutions and Member States with a view to enhancing the measuring of the results, failures and improvements of national policies on patient safety and AMR. It is in the interests of all EU citizens that Member States do not simply adopt policies, but measure them against targets for success, thus proving the effectiveness of the recommendations across the EU.

We know the issues at stake

We already know that patient safety and anti-microbial resistance (AMR) are major public health problems in Member States. According to figures compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 1 in 20 hospital in-patients on average suffer from a healthcare associated infection (HAI) in the EU. Every year it is estimated that 37,000 people in the EU die as a result of an HAI, although 20 to 30% of those infections are considered to be preventable by intensive hygiene and control programmes.

We know that, by 2050, 10 million people are likely to die every year because of antimicrobial resistance, and that resistance to antibiotics that were commonly used to treat causative bacteria is already at least 25% or more in several Member States.

We also know that human health, animal health and ecosystems are interconnected and the use of antibiotics in animals, particularly those intended for consumption and kept in high-density farming, can affect antibiotic resistance in humans. In light of the One Health concept, the only approach that could prevent HAIs, both inside and outside hospitals, is an approach whereby both human and veterinary medical professionals undertake initiatives to prevent resistant infections and reduce the use of antibiotics.

These issues need our utmost attention as they threaten us, our families and the health systems we rely on when we need medical care.

What is next for patients?

I welcome Commissioner Andriukaitis' announcement in Amsterdam on 10 February 2016 to consider antimicrobial resistance as a top priority for the European Commission, however, I believe we also need to understand what this means.  How many Member States have a national policy on AMR? Are patients provided with information about AMR and hand hygiene when they enter a healthcare setting? Is there a standardised screening programme in place for HAIs?  These are the questions that Health First Europe is asking and I look forward to seeing the answers. A careful analysis of the results should be the starting point of a new effective strategy to help Europe moving forward.

MEP Piernicola Pedicini

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