On World Health Day 2018, equal access to healthcare is still denied to persons with disabilities in Europe

6 April 2018
Mother and baby with slogan "Universal Health Coverage Everyone, Everywhere"

More than 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe are still unable to fully access healthcare. Good quality health services are still not a reality due to a host of issues from inaccessible facilities to lack of appropriate training for healthcare professionals and health policy makers. This is why, today, we call on EU Member States to implement policies that allow everyone to access healthcare on an equal basis with others.

Persons with disabilities still have worse access to healthcare than the average European. It’s a life or death issue: a study in the United Kingdom asserted that persons with learning disabilities are four times more likely to die of preventable causes than the average person.

Politically the European Union and Member States committed to provide the highest standard of healthcare to persons with disabilities in several ways. It is an area of action in the European Disability Strategy. It is explicitly stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the EU and all member states. It is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that the EU committed to.

But, in reality, many issues still prevent persons with disabilities to have the same standard of healthcare as the average citizen. We know that many healthcare facilities are not accessible. There is a lack of accessible, easy to read information. Gynaecology facilities are not accessible to women with disabilities. There is lack of adequate training for healthcare professionals. Persons with disabilities are still medically treated without their free and informed consent. And we still witness discriminatory treatments against persons with disabilities by health insurance providers.

Yannis Vardakstanis, President of the European Disability Forum states that

After so many commitments, it is time that the EU and its member states put in place the programmes and resources to ensure that all Europeans, including persons with disabilities have the highest standard of care. This is a life or death issue for many people in Europe. But access to healthcare includes free and informed choice: No persons with disabilities should be forced to have treatment they do not choose.

This disparity is still costing lives. This is why the European Disability Forum calls on the EU and Member States to:

  • Ensure equal access to mainstream (such as dental and eye care, maternal, reproductive and sexual health, etc) and disability specific healthcare services for persons with disabilities, including telemedicine;

  • Ensure that persons with disabilities travelling to another EU Member State can rely on a European cross-border benefit package that allows full reimbursement of healthcare costs on an equal basis as other people.

  • Promote the development of guidelines on free and informed consent and training of healthcare professionals on disability awareness and provision of reasonable accommodation.

  • Ensure that e-health services, as well as mobile health devices and services, are fully accessible and safe to use for patients with disabilities, family members, personal assistants and healthcare staff;

  • Develop prevention and health promotion campaigns in accessible formats, with special efforts to reach specific groups of persons with disabilities with evident health disparities, such as women with disabilities and persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities;

Related Documents

Disability and Health Factsheet - World Health Organisation

UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Concluding observations on the initial report of the European Union

Reclaiming my Health - video by the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus

European Patients Forum Roadmap to Achieving Universal Health Coverage for All by 2030 and statement on World Health Day 2018


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