Member states will need to adapt their national health systems to prepare for the expected increase in long-term health services due to the EU’s ageing demographics, according to a new study published by the Commission.
The report, presented on 28 April, highlights the need to consider new ways of delivering long-term care at home and in residential settings “as the preferred alternative to institutional care”. This follows a Eurobarometer survey published in 2007 which confirms that a majority (ca. 80%) of Europeans prefer long-term care to be supplied at home.
There is also a “widespread consensus” on the need to devise “new ways of support towards family or informal carers” to enable dependent people to stay in their houses for longer, adds the report, entitled Long-term Care in the European Union.
Guaranteeing near-universal access to long-term healthcare in the EU will be one of the main challenges to address as it will entail significant costs, the report says, adding that a combination of public and private financing will thus be needed. Furthermore, improved coordination between social and medical services will also be needed to make the system more effective.
An international conference held under the Luxembourg Presidency in May 2005 confirmed that long-term healthcare is a public responsibility and should therefore rest with public authorities in member states. This premise was backed by the Eurobarometer survey, which showed that 93% of EU citizens believe public authorities should provide home or institutional care.
However, current trends in several EU countries show that demand is outstripping supply, highlighting the fact that there is no wide-ranging system for long-term care services and that there is still room for the private sector.
On the supply side, there is still a major shortage of professional staff dedicated to long-term healthcare. There are a number of approaches being instigated to plug the gap, including higher wages, improved working conditions and bringing informal carers into social security schemes.
A conference on ‘Intergenerational Solidarity for Cohesive and Sustainable Societies’ hosted by the Slovenian EU Presidency will be held today, concentrating on the need to develop long-term care systems.