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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (Health) Council

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord O’Shaughnessy) has made the following statement:

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (Health) Council met on 8 December 2017 in Brussels. The UK was represented at the Health Council by Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health.

There were three main agenda items; the draft Council conclusions on health in digital society; the draft Council conclusions on the cross border aspects in alcohol policy; and pharmaceutical policy in the EU. There were a number of ‘any other business’ items.

The Council conclusions on both digital health and tackling the harmful use of alcohol were formally agreed and adopted at the Ministerial Health Council. On digital health the Commission welcomed the rapid implementation of the EU’s e-health infrastructure and clear public support for the sharing of health data. On cross border aspects of alcohol policy, the Commission highlighted their commitment to supporting member states’ efforts in tackling the harmful use of alcohol, acknowledging most powers are held at national level but emphasising commitment to deal with issues in a proportionate manner at EU level. The presidency and Commission acknowledged the recent ruling on Scotland’s minimum unit pricing policy and the UK Government stated they would closely watch implementation in Scotland and keep the policy in England under review. The UK welcomed the presidency’s work on alcohol policy, which needed to respect differences between circumstances in member states.

Under the ‘pharmaceutical policy in the EU’ agenda item, the Commission provided an update on current work including an evaluation of pharmaceutical incentives and proposals planned for 2018 on Health Technology Assessment (HTA). A number of member states outlined problems resulting in medicines shortages and the high prices of pharmaceuticals. The Netherlands and Belgium both outlined the benefits of the current BeNeLuxA initiative where member states could opt to work together on pharmaceutical pricing or on joint horizon scanning work.

As part of the AOBs, the UK thanked the Estonians for hosting the event in Brussels on AMR attended by Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer. Belgium spoke about medicinal products including Valproate and risks for pregnant women and whether pictograms should be used. There were also brief discussions on the state of health in the EU, the annual growth survey 2018, and the steering group on health promotion, disease prevention and management of non-communicable diseases.

Finally, Bulgaria outlined their priorities for their upcoming presidency in the area of health including healthy eating particularly for children and tackling challenges in pharmaceutical policy such as medicine shortages.