Alice in Euroland
 

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Alice in Euroland

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Alice in Euroland

 

Alice in Euroland

John Chope looks at some of the anomalies of healthcare regulation in an expanding European Union.

What does it feel like to belong to the European Union? Do you sense a refreshing breeze, liberated deep in the continent, sweeping over the open boundaries of a once barricaded Europe. Or is it the unfettered access to the contrapuntal kaleidoculture of confident countries clutching at each other’s economies that
you cherish?

Far-flung holiday homes, cheaper plumbers, healthcare tourists and free movement of labour are the benefits we have come to love. Yet with this removal of boundaries come certain risks and you won’t be surprised to learn that the UK Health Regulators want us to know all about them.

The Alliance of UK Health Regulators on Europe (AURE), of which the GDC is a member, has recently sent a response to the European Commission about its concerns on cross border healthcare in Europe.

It is no longer news when patients travel across European boundaries for their healthcare, but I wonder if they know exactly how effective the professional regulators are at keeping them safe. At present there is no guarantee that a healthcare professional who has been found unfit to practise in one country is prevented from practising in another.

In fact, the rigid data protection legislation in some member states completely outlaws the sharing of information about dangerous practitioners. And another of the crucial benefits of sharing information, the development of an evidence base with a view to avoiding the repetition of errors, cannot possibly work without the free exchange of data.

Modern techniques of healthcare delivery such as tele-medicine, with the treatment taking place in one country and the clinician sitting in another, begs the question – which professional regulator is protecting the patient?

What about clinical standards? How is it possible that for years UK dentists have been expected to work with a dental nurse and decontaminate with an autoclave when neither are considered a
necessity in other parts of Europe?

And when you learn that many European regulators don’t even feel they have a responsibility to check whether a practitioner can speak the same language as the patient, never mind the rest of the clinical team, you will realise you have now become a character in Alice in Wonderland.

 Posted on : Fri 9th - Feb - 2007

 

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