Project group 'Sustainable Health Care' visits France and the United Kingdom

Delegations from the ‘Houdbare Zorg’ (‘Sustainable Helalthcare’) project group went on working visits to Paris and London in December 2019. During their visits, they held discussions with local scientists, researchers and policymakers. The main topic of the discussions was the way in which other countries seek to maintain the viability of their healthcare systems.

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Learning from 36 other countries

In Paris, the project group visited both the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and France Stratégie, the French public thinktank. The WRR has been exchanging information on various projects with France Stratégie for some time. Last year, France Stratégie published an important report containing proposals for reforming the French healthcare system. One of its recommendations was the setting up of smaller community hospitals for less complex healthcare needs that would be closer to citizens, with more complex healthcare aspects being dealt with in larger specialist hospitals. The report also advocated closer links between health and other policy areas. The OECD is carrying out comparative research into healthcare systems in its 36 Western member states. The study involves looking at both benefits and costs. The research themes vary from the experiences of patients and healthcare outcomes in various countries to the affordability of the use of healthcare and the role of technology in the viability of healthcare systems.

Making choices in healthcare

In London, the project group visited the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), as well as a number of independent healthcare thinktanks (Health Foundation, King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust) and universities (LSE Health). NICE is responsible for deciding what basic healthcare needs should be provided in England; it also formulates quality standards and clinical guidelines. Our discussion partners stressed the importance of an independent authoritative body for assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different treatment types. Another topic of discussion was the importance of public consultation and of being receptive to signs from society when making choices in healthcare. Elsewhere, discussions were held on the differences and similarities between the two countries on a wide range of topics – from staff shortages and integrated healthcare, to insurance systems and budget systems.

Lessons from abroad

Since March 2019, the WRR has been conducting research into the viability of the Dutch healthcare system. This is a challenge facing not just the Netherlands, but almost every other Western nation. Everywhere, there are challenges relating to staff and concerns about rising expenditure, while the question of how technology and the ageing population will affect healthcare is very much at the forefront of people’s minds. This is why international comparative research is part of the ‘Houdbare Zorg’ project. It is useful to gain a clear understanding of how other countries deal with such challenges. Lessons of this kind from abroad could be a source of important inspiration for the viability of healthcare in the Netherlands.