The ESF+ Health Programme: “Investing in people” should not just be a budget heading but truly support better healthcare

The European Patients’ Forum (EPF) is pleased to see that the Commission is planning for continued investment in health in today’s publication of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). This acknowledges the added value of health as an investment and a right.

As stated before, we welcome the fact that the Health Programme falls under the “Investing in People, Social cohesion & Values” heading of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). EPF has always advocated for cutting through the silos between healthcare and social care and looking at the continuum of care from a more patient-centred perspective, creating synergies where needed. EPF has started to break those silos through our work on equal treatment and non-discrimination in employment and education, working with young patients, as well as with our Roadmap on Universal Health Coverage by 2030.

A decrease in funding is unacceptable

Yet, the proposed Health Programme, under the ESF+, amounts to less than its predecessor, which we find unacceptable. We reiterate our call for an increased health budget given the formidable common and increasing challenges that European countries are facing that no single country can tackle alone and that require European solutions. More investment is needed to achieve the goals that the Health Programme sets itself, but also to meet the expectations of European citizens. Surveys repeatedly show that health is one of people’s primary concerns and that there is a clear expectation for the EU to do more in this area.

European Semester and European Pillar of Social Rights

There are other structures that have potential for a more consistent focus on policies that will have a positive impact on the lives of Europeans, including the EU’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights, and the European Semester. The new ESF+ proposal foresees an alignment between the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Semester and its Country Specific Recommendations, and the ESF+ funding; we believe this is a step in the right direction. We urge all Member States and stakeholders to make the most out of this opportunity and call for a similar alignment with the SDGs.

“Investing in people” should not merely remain a budget heading but should become a true goal of the EU. We will work towards ensuring that the ESF+ programme contributes to actions that bring EU added value for European patients, in line with EPF’s vision of equitable access to high-quality, patient-centred health and related care.