The NHS Confederation has announced the opening of a new National Health Service European Union unit, under a move to give the NHS a stronger voice at EU level to help influence policy.

It is hoped that the unit, which is funded by the UK’s 10 strategic health authorities, will form close ties with EU organisations to foster high-quality regulation and keep the NHS fully up-to-date with policy developments for the region. “In addition to influencing EU policies in the interest of the NHS, [the unit] will also provide guidance to the service on the implementation of EU law,” according to the Confederation.

“As the largest employer in Europe, it is vital that the NHS is heard at EU level,” explained Gill Morgan, chief executive of the Confederation. “Moreover, by monitoring and influencing key EU policy and legislation, we can better understand the implications of EU developments for our members, with a view to improving patient care,” she said.

The NHS EU unit will operate under the NHS Confederation banner in both Brussels and London, with Elisabetta Zanon, formerly deputy head of London’s European Office, taking the reigns, and an independent group of NHS organisations, including the SHAs, helping to steer the group’s activities.

At the heart of it

Commenting on the need for the NHS to strengthen its presence in Europe, Zanon stressed that EU policy and legislative developments have a “substantial impact” on the NHS. “Recent European Court rulings have clarified how EU Internal Market rules apply to health services, which will have wide-reaching implications for the NHS.

“In addition,” she added, “with specific EU health service legislation announced before the end of the year, it is extremely important that the NHS is positioned at the heart of these developments.”