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European brief - April 2019

Read our monthly European brief to get an overview of the key EU legislative and policy developments which impact the medical profession, as well as the work being carried out by the BMA to ensure that those developments align with our members' interests.

Topics discussed in this month's briefing, include:

  • Brexit update 
  • Elections to the European Parliament
  • EU regulates to limit trans fatty acids in foods
  • Digital healthcare: Challenges for future and current doctors
  • MEPs approve plans to launch Horizon Europe research programme in 2021

Download the latest brief

Brexit update

With the UK’s membership of the EU having been extended provisionally until 31 October 2019, the immediate threat of a "no-deal" scenario has receded.

Nevertheless, given the catastrophic impact that such an outcome would have upon the European medical profession, we continue to work with our European partners to mitigate this potential damage. Accordingly, the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) wrote to the Secretary of State for the Department of Exiting the European Union and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care with:

"a sincere appeal to end the uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the European Union… as the lack… of clear guidance represents a threat to patients, the medical workforce and health systems, both in the UK, and the EU-27."

In addition, and following on from our letter to the CPME President regarding the recognition of professional qualifications in a no-deal scenario, our EU Public Affairs Manager, Paul Laffin, addressed the European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) General Assembly to reiterate our view that:

"As any EU country can unilaterally amend its “third country route” – what the UK will become in the event of a no-deal Brexit – to accept UK qualifications, we believe that our European partners’ support could be vital in convincing member states and their medical competent authorities across Europe to… facilitate the timely registration of UK qualified doctors/EU citizens seeking to practise in continental Europe. In addition to helping promote professional mobility across Europe, it is quite simply the humane course of action to take; students, be they EEA or UK nationals, who took up places in British medical schools in good faith pre-Brexit do not deserve to be penalised due to politicians’ capriciousness."

Copies of the letters referenced are available upon request, or read more about our extensive work.

Elections to the European Parliament

Following publication of its Health Check, which calls on European decision makers to ensure "safe and attractive working conditions for doctors… throughout Europe", the CPME President, Professor Dr Montgomery, invites doctors to "go to the elections and vote for Europe".

With the UK obliged to participate in the upcoming elections (23/26 May) unless the UK Parliament approves the draft Withdrawal Agreement beforehand, we will be working to ensure that any future UK MEPs are fully cognisant of the role that they have to play in helping to deliver legislative outcomes that reflect the views of the medical profession.

EU regulates to limit trans fatty acids in foods

After years of lobbying by the BMA and its European partners, the European Commission (EC) has finally adopted a new regulation to set a maximum limit on the use of industrially produced trans-fats in foods in the EU.

The measure aims at protecting consumers' health and providing Europeans with healthier food options, and reflects a number of scientific studies, including one from the European Food Safety Authority, which have stressed that the dietary intakes of trans fat should be as low as possible in order to avoid health risks. 

The maximum limit set corresponds to 2 grams of industrially produced trans fats per 100 grams of fat in the food intended for the final consumer and food intended for the supply to retail. In addition, businesses must provide information on the amounts of trans fat in food supplied to other businesses if the limit of 2 grams is exceeded. 

As this Regulation will apply as from 2 April 2021, its applicability to the UK is dependent upon the nature of the country’s departure from the EU. 

Digital healthcare: Challenges for future and current doctors

As part of the EC event, 'How smart health is changing the profession of our doctors' - hosted by The Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam - and speaking on behalf of our partners in the CPME, BMA member, Dr Farah Jameel, presented 'Digital Healthcare: Challenges versus Opportunities'.

With the event defining joint principles and delivering recommendations for action to integrate digital healthcare in the education and training programmes for medical doctors across Europe, the BMA’s involvement will help to ensure that, whatever the UK’s future relationship with the EU 27 is, we continue to play a key role in the digital transformation of Europe’s medical education and training systems.

MEPs approve plans to launch Horizon Europe research programme in 2021

The EP’s Plenary (full session) has overwhelmingly adopted the text necessary to allow the EC to begin the requisite preparatory work to ensure that the new Horizon Europe programme will be operational in January 2021.

MEPs also approved plans for a new steering board for health, to give the subject more visibility at EU level. The board would be primarily targeted at coordinating health research, including the Innovative Medicines Initiative and the health missions on paediatric cancer.

The group of 15-20 health experts would focus on developing coordination and synergies between EU and national health programmes as well as promoting engagement with patients and wider civil society. 

As MEPs also agreed that non-EU countries - like Switzerland, the USA and the post-Brexit UK - should be allowed to associate to the programme, but that the EU should retain the option to limit their involvement in some parts. We will continue to work with European and domestic partners to mitigate possible threats to the UK’s participation in this programme.