Council representatives attend Healthcare Crossing Borders Agreement Conference in Helsinki

"Patient safety should be paramount in EU health service rules", say Europe's health regulators

The Alliance of UK Health Regulators on Europe (AURE), together with representatives of health regulators from across Europe, this week led a call for the European Commission to make patient safety a top priority in any new EU initiatives on patient and professional mobility.

Healthcare regulators from 16 EU Member States gathered in Helsinki, Finland, on 23 October to decide how best to share information about regulated healthcare workers with a disciplinary record who wish to practise in another European country.

Following the recently launched European Commission Consultation on Health Services, participants also called upon the Commission to work closely with all regulators to support them in sharing information that gives added assurance that registered healthcare workers are safe and fit to practise.

Pirjo Pennanen, Medical Counsellor, of the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs, who hosted the meeting said: "We are pleased that so many regulators, from so many countries, have taken the initiative to meet together, here in Helsinki during Finland's Presidency of the EU, to discuss patient safety in the European single market".

The European Commission is currently seeking to clarify EC rules making it easier for patients to gain treatment in another country and those that already enable health workers to practise in any European country.

In a climate where more health professionals are moving around Europe and potentially more patients seeking treatment abroad, regulators are keen to ensure they have access to a full record of information about anyone seeking professional registration from another European country.

Hugh Simpson, Convenor of AURE said: "The vast majority of European healthcare professionals are conscientious, and safe practitioners. However, strengthening the basis for information sharing between competent authorities could help to protect patients from the small minority who pose a risk and seek to evade disciplinary action or regulatory control across the European Union."
This call follows agreement by European Ministers last year that all regulators will work more closely together to exchange information when regulated professionals want to register to practise in another European country.
It also builds on the Healthcare Professionals Crossing Borders initiative spearheaded by the UK Presidency of the EU in 2005, and now coordinated by the Alliance of UK Health Regulators on Europe (AURE). This brings most European health regulators together to collaborate on information exchange.

For further information please contact:
Hugh Simpson, Convenor of AURE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7189 5436 email: hsimpson@gmc-uk.org

Note to Editors:

  1. AURE is a network of the 10 UK health and social care regulators and exists to respond to European Union developments relevant to health and social care regulation and patient and public safety in the UK. Member organisations are: the General Medical Council, General Dental Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, General Osteopathic Council, General Social Care Council, General Chiropractic Council, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, Health Professions Council, General Optical Council.
  2. On 26th September 2006 the European Commission launched an open consultation on Health Services. The deadline for responses is 31st January 2007. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/1267&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
  3. On 6 June 2005 the European Council adopted the Directive on Recognition on Professional Qualifications 35/2005/EC. Article 56 of the Directive states that: "The competent authorities (regulators) of the host and home Member states shall exchange information regarding disciplinary action or criminal sanctions taken or any other serious, specific circumstances which are likely to have consequences for the pursuit of activities." The Directive is due to come into force on 20 October 2007.
  4. Healthcare Professionals Crossing Borders began as a EU Presidency initiative during the UK Presidency of the EU, in 2005. It now exists as an informal partnership of European regulators focusing on developing approaches to information exchange between regulatory authorities. In October 2005, as part of the initiative, regulators from across Europe developed an informal agreement, known as the Edinburgh Agreement, setting out how they will collaborate on information exchange.

Further information and copies of the Edinburgh Agreement can be obtained from Claire Herbert, Regulation Policy Adviser at the General Medical Council in London - tel: 020 7189 5042, email: cherbert@gmc-uk.o