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Quality of health and care services in the EU

On the 11th of July Eurofound published a report, based on data from its European Quality of Life 2016 Survey, looking at the use, access to, and perceptions of quality in relation to health services long-term care and childcare across the European Union.

The point of departure for this research is a growing interest in developing monitoring and establishing indicators on access to quality social services in EU policy circles. References to ‘quality of public services’ have grown and spread across EU-level policy documents for more than a decade. The European Pillar of Social Rights has been an important milestone as many of its principles refer to specific public services and explicitly state that the services have to be of good quality. Monitoring and assessing quality are likely to be important in assessing the implementation of the Pillar.

In the report, services are considered to be of high quality if they are easily accessible, the quality of care received is high, people are treated equally by the services and the services are free of corruption, following the approach of the EU Social Protection Committee (SPC)’s 2010 voluntary European Quality Framework for social services, which suggests monitoring input, output and process-related dimensions and considers access as part of quality.

Apart from quality perceptions, the differences in use of particular services are much greater across countries: long-term care ratings are not as differentiated by socioeconomic background within countries as other services, but country differences in both use levels and perceived quality are notable; concerning childcare, there are large differences in the extent to which grandparents are used as an informal resource (by 36% of parents in the EU on average, reaching 60% in certain countries). This inevitably relates to the proportion of people having experience with formal childcare services, as well as their perspectives on access and, possibly, fairness in these services.

In terms of data collection, measurement of bad access to services would benefit from broadening the understanding of inadequate access from ‘unmet need’ to other consequences of poor access, and from recognising that financial barriers may manifest themselves in a range of ways. In the case of healthcare, they range from not attending care due to cost or other reasons, and delaying to accessing but experiencing difficulties while doing so and expectations about future access problems.

You can find the full report here.