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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 8 and 9 June in Luxembourg. The Health and Consumer Affairs part of the Council was taken on 9 June. Andy Lebrecht, Deputy Permanent Representative at UKRep represented the UK.

At the meeting, the Council adopted recommendations on the Czech presidency theme of patient safety, including the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections and on action in the field of rare diseases. The United Kingdom supported the adoption of these conclusions.

The presidency provided a progress report on the proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare, which was followed by a debate between member states where it was clear that there remain concerns among member states on treatments to be included under the directive. The UK intervened to thank the Czech presidency for their work taking this dossier forward, and welcomed the Council’s firm support for certain fundamental principles—in particular that of ensuring that member states retain the ability to determine healthcare entitlements. The UK noted that there remained some technical issues to be resolved in chapters 1 to 3, and that we still had serious concerns about the extent and appropriateness of some provisions of chapter four (on co-operation between healthcare systems).

Over lunch, there was a discussion from the Commission on H1N1(A) influenza, following a paper the Commission had provided to member states in advance.

The afternoon discussion focused on the “pharmaceutical package”. The majority of member states who intervened welcomed the proposals on counterfeit medicines and pharmacovigilance, as did the UK. Most of member states, however, were not supportive of the third element of the package: the proposals on “information to patients”. The UK noted that the divergent views across Europe meant that discussion of a harmonised legal framework was difficult. However, the UK encouraged member states to find a way to keep the issues under discussion. Under any other business, the presidency and Commission provided information on a range of issues including a summary of the lunchtime discussion on swine flu, a directive on standards of quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation, the outcome of a Council working party on public health at senior level and information on ingredients in tobacco products. The incoming Swedish presidency provided information on their priorities for health, which they intend to take forward under their presidency.