HEALTH AND LONG-TERM CARE: OPEN METHOD
OF CO-ORDINATION (8131/04)
Letter from Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP,
Minister of State, Department of Health to the Chairman
Further to my letter of 1 July 2005
on the open method of co-ordination, I promised to keep you up
to date with developments in this area.
Since the UK submitted its national report on
its healthcare system for the open method of co-ordination in
healthcare process, the Commission has produced a very helpful
synthesis note of the reports that it received from each member
state. I have included a copy of this note as an Annex to this
letter (not printed).
This helpful note outlines the similarities
and differences between member states' healthcare systems in the
three areas of access, quality and financial sustainability which
are the focus of the open method of co-ordination in healthcare.
It highlights common challenges to all EU healthcare systems such
as the ageing society, prevention of ill-health and health promotion
and choice. It is helpful for us to know how other member states
are tackling these issues and to be able to draw lessons from
In the conclusions of the note, the Commission
stresses that "the aim of the OMC is not to develop common
institutional solutions or to harmonise national systems. Each
Member State has a unique system, and harmonisation would not
make sense and is clearly not warranted. It will be up to the
policy makers in each Member State to draw the appropriate lessons
from the information that the Open Method of Co-ordination will
make available to them and which should be usefully complemented
by the work of international organisations such as the OECD and
the WHO". I welcome the recognition in this text that this
process should be light touch and not administratively burdensome
and that it should not impact on member states' responsibilities
in this area.
In terms of next steps, this note from the Commission
has fed into the Streamlining Communication on all of the different
forms of open method of co-ordination in the social protection
field. This Communication has been adopted and you will receive
an explanatory memorandum from James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under
Secretary (Commons) at the Department for Work and Pensions who
is the lead minister for the Communication very shortly.
I will continue to keep you informed of any
other relevant developments in this area.
11 January 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Rosie
Thank you for your letter dated 11 January.
In effect it is a long-awaited reply to my letter to you dated
21 July 2005.
Your letter was considered by Sub-Committee G on 2 March.
We are grateful to you for drawing our attention
to the conclusion about the aim of OMC in the Commission's Report
on the review of preliminary policy statements on health and long-term
care. This is very much in line with our own view on this and
other OMC exercises which I have set out in earlier correspondence,
including my letter dated 21 July 2005. So is the Commission's
other conclusion that resources are too scarce to allow duplication.
The risk of duplication is underscored by the
Commission's emphasis on the need to take account of the work
of existing working groups. On the other hand, we note that the
Commission calls for regional and local authorities to be more
involved in the OMC. We trust the Government will ensure that
the right balance is struck between these elements and that the
best use is made of these and any other relevant resources.
Most of the Commission's other conclusions seem
to us to be self-evident. We hope that the further activity envisaged
will produce cost-effectively more meaningful insights and concrete
proposals to address the rather obvious needs which have been
James Plaskitt's Explanatory Memorandum on the
new Framework for Open Co-ordination of Social Protection and
Inclusion Policies in the EU (reference 5070/06), which you mention,
has been sifted for examination to Sub-Committee A.
In the circumstances, we feel the time has come
to release the present document from scrutiny, although we are
grateful for your offer to report any further relevant developments.
2 March 2006
208 Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of
Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, p 625. Back
Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06,
HL Paper 243, pp 635-636. Back