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European brief - July 2017

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.

  • Brexit update
  • Shaping EU alcohol policy
  • Progress on the mandatory labelling of alcoholic drinks?
  • EU tackles acrylamide levels in food
  • Public consultation on health and care in the digital single market
  • Obstacles to the free movement of electronic health records in the EU


Brexit update

With the 2nd round of negotiations having begun on 17 July, there is further evidence that the EU recognises the importance of prioritising the interests of the European medical profession and the patients it serves. Writing in an open letter to The Guardian, Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and chair of the EP’s (European Parliament) Brexit steering group, along with a cross-party group of leading MEPs – many of whom the BMA has met with to outline our concerns, chose to cite the medical profession when referencing the ongoing uncertainty with regard to the UK government’s opening offer on citizens’ rights:

‘But the real cause for concern lies in the continuing uncertainty. This proposal leaves so many unanswered questions…Will doctors enjoy continued and guaranteed recognition of their qualifications in the UK?’

In addition, and following Dr John D Woods, BMA NI Chair of Council, having given evidence to the Irish Seanad’s (Senate) special select Brexit committee in June, its report echoes the BMA’s key concerns with regard to healthcare provision in Ireland post-Brexit.

  • The retention of the rights of UK and EU citizens in each others’ jurisdictions post-Brexit, with particular rights to permanent residence granted to doctors, including those in the UK for less than five years
  • The mutual recognition of qualifications must be retained.

Whilst such recognition of our priorities is welcome, we are continuing to engage with key actors on both sides of the negotiating table so that they are cognisant of our developing positions.

For example, Dr Andrew Dearden, BMA Treasurer, met with officials from the German Health Ministry in Berlin whilst Dr Andrew Rowland, Head of the UK delegation to the UEMS (European Union of Medical Specialists) met with the Presidents of the Spanish, French and Portuguese Medical Associations in Madrid, earlier this month.

Read the MEPs’ letter to The Guardian

Read the report from the Irish Seanad’s special select Brexit committee

Read additional information about the BMA’s work on this matter


Shaping EU alcohol policy

Following the 2015 mass resignation, in protest at the EC’s (European Commission) refusal to develop a new alcohol strategy, of 20 public health organisations from the EAHF (European Alcohol and Health Forum) negotiations have begun in an attempt to propose a new way of working.

The proposals would see the EAHF operating with two chambers: one involving NGOs alongside professional and scientific organisations, with the second being comprised of the economic operators.

These two chambers would meet separately once a year and would hold an annual joint meeting. Moreover, member states' public health authorities would provide the bulk of the guidance to the EAHF via the CNAPA (Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action).

The CPME (Standing Committee of European Doctors), of which the BMA is a member, expressed its support for the proposed model on the conditions that both chambers’ work be transparent and that the other stakeholders also support the proposed model.

The EC is currently analysing the feedback received ahead of further actions.

Read additional background information about the EAHF


Progress on the mandatory labelling of alcoholic drinks?

With the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU (July/December 2017) having prioritised the reduction of alcohol-related harm in Europe, with a particular focus on cross-border alcohol policy issues such as the advertising and labelling of alcoholic beverages, there is renewed hope that the exemption granted to alcohol products from certain mandatory labelling requirements may be removed.

Indeed, and ahead of a meeting of ministries of health in Tallinn on 21 July 2017, WHO/Europe prepared a report on the topic as a discussion document.

With the alcohol industry currently preparing its response to the EC’s long-awaited report on the exemption granted to alcohol products from certain mandatory labelling requirements, such action will add further impetus to the European medical profession’s view that any future alcohol labelling scheme reflects the following objectives.

  • The harmonised labelling of alcoholic products would significantly, and self-evidently, improve consumers’ awareness and understanding of the ingredients and nutritional information, including energy content, of these products.
  • There should be a mandatory requirement for industry producers to comply with the current regulation and to provide the listing of ingredients and nutritional information per 100ml.
  • It should be mandatory for alcohol products to show unit information, alcohol guidelines, advice on alcohol-free days, a health warning message, and advice not to drink during pregnancy.
  • The EU should develop its alcohol policies independently of the alcohol industry.

Read the full EC report

Read the WHO Europe report


EU tackles acrylamide levels in food

EU member states have adopted – 22 in favour with 4 abstentions - legislation aimed at reducing the amount of acrylamide, a carcinogenic contaminant that is produced when starchy ingredients are cooked above 120°C, in popular foods such as bread, cereal and chips.

The adopted regulation will enter into force in 2018 and imposes indicative values rather than binding limits on acrylamide in food, but stipulates that the limits will become mandatory in the future.

It also obliges large scale businesses to apply additional mitigation measures such as the implementation of a management system that controls biological and chemical hazards at all points in the manufacturing process.

Read the adopted regulation in full


Public consultation on health and care in the digital single market

The EC has launched a public consultation to define the need and scope of policy measures that will promote digital innovation in improving people’s health, and address systemic challenges to healthcare systems.

The consultation, to which the BMA will be responding and which is available via the link below, seeks to collect information on:

  • cross-border access and portability of personal health data
  • sharing of resources (scientific research expertise, data capacity and advanced digital infrastructure that will accelerate research and advance prevention, treatment and personalised medicine
  • measures to ensure widespread uptake of digital innovations, enabling more patient centered and integrated healthcare, and allowing for feedback and interaction between patients and healthcare providers.

Read the consultation


Obstacles to the free movement of electronic health records in the EU

The Estonian government has published a summary of a report analysing the various obstacles to the free movement of health data across the EU and within member states.

The report, drawn from analyses of 5 member states – including the UK, includes recommendations for overcoming the potentially negative aspects of e-health systems.

Read the summary in full


For further information on any of these news items, please email Paul Laffin.