Access to Healthcare Survey Report – What Patients Tell Us


In December 2016, EPF published the report on its access to healthcare patient survey conducted earlier that year. Depicting a very alarming situation, the survey results fuel EPF’s policy and advocacy work on access to healthcare and guide our 2017 Campaign on Universal Health Coverage.

Targeted at patients with chronic and long-term conditions and carers, the survey aimed to gather knowledge on the barriers and inequalities of access to healthcare across the European Union and across conditions.

Key Findings – A Very Patchy European Union

The survey looked at assessing 5 dimensions of access to healthcare including availability, affordability, accessibility, adequacy and appropriateness.

With regards to affordability of healthcare, the survey confirmed that far too many patients in the EU are confronted to financial hardship as a result of healthcare costs. 41% of respondents reported reducing household spending on essential needs, such as food or clothing to be able to cover healthcare costs and a shocking 36% reported forgoing or postponing treatments due to costs at least 1 time in the past 12 months.

The survey also demonstrated that the safety and quality of healthcare in the EU is unequal, and key aspects of patient-centered healthcare are not implemented. Almost 48% of respondents indicated ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ receiving quality care according to standards/guidelines or best practices available for their condition. 

Furthermore, a large share of respondents also indicated insufficient and inadequate investment as a fundamental issue and in response to significant waiting times, called for appropriate resources to be allocated to hire and retain HCPs.

The survey indicates divergent experiences with regards to access to healthcare across the European Union, indicating differences associated to income, differences between patients with one chronic condition vs multiple chronic conditions and differences when it comes to patients from Member States who joined the EU before and after 2004.

Policy Recommendations – What Should Be Done?

The survey’s results point to fundamental challenges to tackle and key areas of action for decision makers at EU and national level to address in order to ensure patients with chronic conditions have access to high quality, affordable healthcare across the European Union. While there is no one size fits all solution, recurring issues are identified by patients throughout the survey where the European Union could have a key supporting role.

  1. Ensuring affordability of healthcare
  2. Tackling organisational challenges
  3. Ensuring appropriate resources are invested efficiently and sustainably in healthcare
  4. Recognising patients are part of the solution and ensuring patients’ perspective on access to healthcare is collected and used


Universal Health Coverage for All

The survey confirms the experiential knowledge and previous evidence gathered by EPF and the patient community illustrating that patients face multiple common barriers in accessing healthcare across the European Union.

The results only reinforce the rationale for EPF to conduct a Campaign on Universal Health Coverage throughout 2017. The Campaign calls for real political commitment from European and national political leaders to improve access to healthcare for all patients and to ensure the right to health as stated in the EU charter of fundamental rights is implemented.

Further information

Contact: Katie Gallagher, Policy Adviser, katie.gallagher(@)