Don’t be absurd: We need sustainable healthcare

In this modern world of ageing populations and co-morbidities (citizens suffering from more than one illness/disease at the same time) one would think that striving towards sustainable healthcare would be a no-brainer.

The problem is, it isn’t happening. Or at least not quickly enough.

Of course, the EU’s current 28 Member States all have individual competence for their own healthcare systems, so an umbrella view on most aspects of health is not possible from Brussels (although centralised legislation on IVDs, clinical trials and sharing within data protection laws have subtly changed this).

During and after the financial crisis of 2008, health services across Europe were hit hard (most notably, perhaps, in Greece) and the pro-Brexit camp’s deliberate falsehood almost a decade later that money earmarked for the EU would, instead, go to the beleaguered National Health Service - to the tune of a whopping £350 million-per-week - merely serves to illustrate how under-funded many health services are, and the value that the general public places on them.

Of course, history shows us that health services are among the first to be curtailed when money is tight. President Donald Trump is already at it in the US, with a withdrawal of funding for meals-on-wheels that had previously given vital aid to poor pensioners and, lest we forget, the promised abandonment and replacement of Obamacare.

In the latter case, financial and health experts have warned that ‘Trumpcare’ will leave many more needy people without health insurance down the line.

Over here in the European Union a population of some 500 million will all, at some time, need healthcare. In fact, we will need more healthcare than ever before as we age and, like pension funds, healthcare budgets are becoming way too stretched, arguably to the point of being unsustainable.

It’s an absurd situation, as apart from anything else the direct correlation between the health of a nation and its wealth has long been known and shown.

Albert Camus would have a field day. Among other topics, his famous novel ‘The Plague’ illustrates the human reaction towards the absurd, discussing how the world deals with the philosophical notion of absurdity.

In fact, staying with literature, Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ brings to mind through metaphor a situation where, on the surface, we certainly could all be living longer through better diets, increased hygiene, plus more effective drugs and treatment - so it all looks wonderful - then, up in the attic, the whole rosy picture is seen in its true light as health services across Europe decline and rot, taking lives and quality of life with them as they decay.

In a modern Western world that, comparatively, is awash with money, we’re back to absurdity again.

Politicians will tell you that, if you ask any citizen, health and healthcare is high on their agenda – and as we live longer that will surely become more the case, rather than less.

The key problem is, there appears to be a lack of a political will to act together as one bloc, sharing knowledge and best practice and fighting as one to find new and better ways to serve our patients now and into the future.

This must change. Now.

Many of these issues with be discussed the First Annual European Personalised Medicine Congress, to be held across four days (27-30 November) in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Congress website, the abstracts portal, and online registration have been launched and the current programme is available to view here.