EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

The health and social services sector - what future?

Sector Futures provides specialised reports based on the monitoring of existing foresight studies, scenario work, innovation studies and reliable data sources. January 2005 features the third and last article in the series on the future of the health and social services sector. The paper examines European level policy responses to some of the factors shaping the sector’s future, and addresses specific policy challenges facing European healthcare systems.

Despite differences in political approaches and institutional frameworks, health and social services in all Member States face similar challenges in adjusting to demographic ageing, changing employment and family patterns, evolving technological opportunities and funding issues.

The importance of health and social services is set to increase as European society grows older. This growing demand for services, provided by the public sector in many Member States, is creating unprecedented pressures on health and social care systems. Indeed, these systems seem to be in a perpetual state of reform and upheaval, creating a sense of uncertainty and even crisis. At the heart of the issue is the increasing cost of maintaining such health and social care systems.

From defining the trends and drivers…

The first feature, The future of health and social services in Europe (pdf 153 kb), provides a snapshot of the health and social services sector, focusing on some of the driving forces that will map its future.

…towards visions for the future

The second feature in the series, Health and social services - visions for the future (pdf 218 kb), explores in greater depth healthcare scenarios from four countries - Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States - as well as the WHO scenario for health and care in Europe in 2022. These scenarios and the drivers identified in the first article provide the backdrop for three diverging ‘integrated visions’ for the future of the sector. By offering possible alternative views of the world, they illuminate the drivers of change and their impact on health and social services.

Policy implications

The third and last article in this series, Policies and actions for a healthy Europe (pdf 92 kb), outlines the contours of the European health policy landscape, with a view of providing a baseline account of actions and initiatives being promoted at European level. It then looks at four major policy issues facing the European healthcare system: reform of health and social care funding systems; exploitation of information and communication technologies (ICT); tackling major health determinants; and exploitation and regulation of developments in genomics and other biotechnologies.

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