My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) has made the following written statement:
An Informal Health Council meeting was held in Bratislava on 3-4 October 2016 as part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council formation. Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, represented the UK.
During a discussion about food reformulation, the UK updated Ministers on the introduction of a sugar levy on soft drinks and the importance of looking at how to best inform the population on links between sugar and obesity. The UK outlined key parts of the UK childhood obesity and talked about the importance of focusing on children, and influencing behaviour at an early age. The UK also stated commitment to working with others to tackle different issues whilst taking forward an exit from the EU.
There was widespread agreement amongst Ministers on the importance of working together and sharing information to tackle medicine shortages. There was recognition that shortages occur for a wide variety of reasons and that there is no one solution. The UK explained that there was fragmentation within national systems and expressed caution on whether an EU wide solution to these problems was practically possible. The UK expressed recognition of member states’ concerns about pricing, but stressed the importance of a vibrant life-science sector. The UK also underlined anti-microbial resistance (AMR) as an area where action was needed to ensure the development of new drugs.
There was support from member states for an EU framework on tuberculosis (TB) which would also include hepatitis B and C and HIV given the significant overlap between the conditions. There was also agreement on the need to share information, to work with the eastern neighbourhood and support for a civil society forum. Current work was outlined, including the EU joint action on TB, the European Commission contribution to the Global Fund and the World Health Organisation (WHO) TB action plan. The UK updated the meeting on the new UK national strategy on TB, which takes a multi-sectoral approach and complements the WHO strategy. The UK also highlighted links with AMR.
During a discussion about how to increase vaccine uptake across the EU, the UK highlighted work undertaken to increase vaccine coverage in the UK — including through action on shortages, communication campaigns and through forecasting and planning. The UK supported further international work on the issue and, with other 4, agreed on the importance of sharing information. The UK also mentioned links between increased vaccine uptake and tackling AMR.
The Czech Republic invited Ministers to a joint ministerial meeting on health and the environment in Ostrava on 13-15 June 2017. There was also an item about European Commission work on patient safety.