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ESMO Calls for EU Serious Cross-Border Health Threats Regulation to Better Protect Patients with Cancer

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the vulnerabilities of healthcare systems, showing the need to strengthen healthcare at secondary and tertiary care levels, especially for patients with cancer
22 Feb 2024

ESMO requests European Union's (EU) Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health to include monitoring of impacts on the provision and continuity of healthcare services at secondary and tertiary levels, where patients with cancer are predominately treated, in addition to primary care level, which is currently included.

ESMO’s response to the evaluation of the Regulation outlines two crucial acts to better protect patients with cancer during health emergencies and pandemics:

  • maintaining patients' rights under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive (2011/24/EU) to receive treatment in another EU Member State; and
  • integrating sustainable cancer care services into preparedness and response planning.

Recognizing the challenges posed by serious cross-border threats to public health and healthcare systems, ESMO urges the EU Member States to safeguard the screening, early detection, and treatment of cancer with minimal delays during and beyond health emergencies, as disruptions to treatment and care can have dire consequences on patient survival.

ESMO has consistently highlighted the importance of strengthening health emergency preparedness at secondary and tertiary care levels globally, most recently at the Seventh meeting of Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005), on 5 February 2024. The key elements of the strengthening include adequate, continued, and timely access to cancer and palliative care services and medicines, the continuance of existing clinical trials - avoiding competition with resources required for health emergencies, the development of ethical and methodological decision-making guidelines for situations where resources must be re-allocated or are in shortage, and support to healthcare workforce wellbeing.

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