EU institutions. Why bother, you may ask? What’s in it for me?
Monolithic, complex, and remote as these institutions may seem, dear reader, in fact Brussels is teeming with organisations and individuals bringing hard science, personal stories, and economic arguments to push for change in many different domains, including healthcare. So, if you are not there, you cannot be seen nor heard. You cannot influence the debate. You are invisible.
ESA is therefore embarking on some exciting new activities to raise the visibility and influence of the society at a political level. By engaging with EU institutions and other relevant stakeholders – patient groups, other medical societies, industry, and issue-focused groups – ESA is taking new steps to promote the interests of its members and to drive forward its strategic agenda.
Our goals are threefold. Firstly, we will promote our professional role vis-à-vis policymakers, politicians, and interest groups in key policy areas. Secondly, we want to ensure that patient safety in perioperative care is a priority on the EU health policy agenda. And finally, we are working to identify funding opportunities that will enable us, the anaesthesiologists, to improve the science and practice of anaesthesiology, intensive care, pain, and perioperative medicine.
Promoting the professional role:ESA currently collaborates with the European Board of Anaesthesiology, the Union of European Medical Specialists, and the BioMed Alliance to advance education and research in our field, and these alliances will continue.
Additionally, ESA is creating new opportunities to promote our professional role through direct engagementwith policymakers, politicians, and a wider group of high-level stakeholders.We recently addressed the WHO Europe Regional Committee and questioned the current emphasis on prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The statement, made on behalf of WFSA, called on policymakers to pursue a comprehensive approach to addressing NCDs, and in particular, to raise the priority given to diagnosis and treatment, which may include anaesthesia, surgery, and perioperative and palliative care.
Interestingly, this perspective was echoed at a high-level EU Health Policy Summit that took place recently in Brussels, entitled EU Health Summit – a Shared Vision for Health. An informal poll was taken at the beginning and at the end of the event to ask participants their opinions about the most important focus for improving the health of European citizens. At the beginning of the event, ‘prevention’ was seen to be the priority. By the end of the event, polling identified ‘outcomes’ as the most important focus for health improvement efforts. Was this event just talking shop? On the contrary, I believe that engagement and dialogue between different stakeholders helps to shape the debate, create consensus, and generate momentum for change. It is essential for your society to be part of – and to drive – the conversation.
What conversation? Getting patient safety in perioperative care onto the EU health policy agenda: ESA’s President, Stef De Hert, has been working closely with the ESA Patient Safety and Quality Committee to develop key messages and ideas that we, the anaesthesiologists, want to bring to the attention of policymakers. Our campaign will then build on the Helsinki Declaration on Patient Safety in Anaesthesiology.
We will ask policymakers to:
- ensure that minimum standards of care are met;
- facilitate data collection and analysis in order to measure, monitor, and improve patient safety and quality of care; and
- promote excellence in anaesthesiology through education, research, and innovation.
Building on groundwork from 2018, we will continue to develop contacts with policymakers in 2019, and work to ensure that ESA is involved in high-level policy events where we can bring these messages to the institutions.
The first such event will take place in the spring of 2019, when President Stef De Hert will address a meeting of Chief Medical and Nursing Officers taking place during the Romanian presidency of the EU, on the role of perioperative patient safety strategies in reducing the risk of infections. The meeting, which will be attended by the most senior medical officials of the 28 EU member states, has been secured thanks to the outstanding efforts of our colleagues Serban Bubenek and Dorel Săndesc, who initiated contacts with the Romanian Ministry of Health and Romanian Health Attaché to the EU.
Following that and building up to the tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Declaration, ESA will hold its first policy summit on perioperative patient safety in the spring of 2020. Taking place during the Croatian presidency of the European Union, we are honoured that the Croatian Ministry of Health has agreed to endorse our event, which resonates well with their own health policy priorities during their presidency. Culminating with the formal endorsement of a consensus statement, which will be co-created with other stakeholders, the event will show that the medical and scientific community is united around the need for a common patient safety approach to perioperative care.
Of course, these and other events will be accompanied by timely, insightful communications to all parties. Please stay tuned!
Opportunities for funding and collaboration:ESA is actively looking for funding opportunities for EU-funded research and professional development
One of the main funding instruments of the European Commission, known as Horizon 2020, will be replaced in the next funding cycle (2021 to 2027) by a new program called Horizon Europe. Calls for proposals in both the current and future funding programs are intended to advance and exploit new medical technologies, be it in digital health, big data and artificial intelligence, personalised medicine and beyond, and their application could be across many different medical fields. So, if you are looking for EU funding, we encourage you to bring forward your ideas and projects for solving problems in anaesthesiology with solutions made possible by these new technologies!
There are various other opportunities for advancing our profession and we will explore these in more detail in future newsletters. In the meantime, calls are currently open under the Marie Sklowdowska-Curie program, which provides funding for short-term exchanges of personnel between academic, industrial, and commercial organisations throughout the world. Research staff of any nationality, in any research field, at any career level – from PhD preparation to experienced researchers – can undertake a secondment. Interested? Check this link!
Moving forward, we hope to expand the opportunities for engagement with policymakers and inform members about events and opportunities in Brussels. A regular newsletter, EU Health nEwSwAtch, will share news from the European Commission on topics of interest to anaesthesiologists, update you on what ESA is doing to advance the profession, call on members who can share their expertise with EU policymakers on behalf of ESA, and provide news about EU funding opportunities and calls for proposals.
Please contact Helen Brewer (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like more information about our EU activities or would like to subscribe to EU Health nEwSwAtch!