Combining the protection of patients' rights with skills shortage, medical desertification and job strain.
The key role of HCPs for a healthier Europe.

20 March 2024 | 16:30 – 18:30
Room ASP 3H1 | European Parliament, Brussels

Also this year, Active Citizenship Network will celebrate the European Patients' Rights Day - which has reached its 18th edition - with a conference that will be held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 20 March from 16:30 to 18:30, kindly hosted by MEP Brando Benifei (S&D) and organised with the support of the MEPs Interest Group "European Patients' Rights & Cross-Border Healthcare".

for more information please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To read the programme of the conference, click here


Introduction and aim of the initiative

15 million people work in health occupations, representing over 7% of the EU workforce and almost 4% of the EU population. The role of healthcare professionals (HCPs) is undeniably pivotal. However, their significance seems to be inadequately emphasized in the political sphere: whether in the NRRPs, the conclusions of the Conference for the Future of Europe, or pre-election debates.

As part of the European Year of Skills, the Commission's Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) report 2023 puts a special focus on the analysis of labour shortages and skills gaps also in the health sector.

Projects funded under the EU4Health Work Programme (among others, the “AHEAD” project and the Joint Action ”HEROES”) have addressed the persistent labour shortage in the health sector, while a widespread civic survey on health workers - conducted in Italy by Cittadinanzattiva - investigated how 10.000 workers belonging to 20 health professions experience their condition, outlining the contours of what is a real "health workforce emergency”.

Neglecting the health workforce crisis jeopardizes current and future preventive and care options for citizens. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are essential within healthcare systems, ensuring the well-being of citizens and fostering trust in the system. Their support is paramount. Ahead of the European elections, which steps should we prioritize to address this pressing concern?

The issue - addressed from a public policy perspective - will be the focus of the 18th edition of the European Patients’ Rights Day, as always organized in its traditional multi-stakeholder format to embrace the voices of public institutions as well as those of professionals, the private sector, civil society and patients, who see in their daily lives the concrete possibility of relating directly with healthcare professionals dangerously reduced.

For this reason and for the consciousness that this condition undermines the chances of protection and care for European citizens and patients, the discussion will not only be about the shortage of health professionals but also about the need keep them always well-informed, trained, updated and ready for forthcoming challenges, also analysing the impact of their working conditions.

A local but common factor almost everywhere in Europe that deserves the attention of the political class, starting with the same European institutions that have declared their commitment to a "European Health Union". After the June 2024 elections, how can we ensure a patient-centered approach at the European level that also pays heed to healthcare professionals? How to improve the work environment within the National Health Service of member states? How to ensure the empowerment of the healthcare professionals for everyone's protection?


Objectives of the event

  • Highlight the issues of skill shortages, medical desertification, empowerment of healthcare professionals, and unmet patient needs in the upcoming elections.
  • Acknowledge the vital role of all healthcare professionals.
  • Encourage greater representation of these professionals at the European level.
  • Promote a stronger alliance between health professionals and patients.
  • Propose actionable insights for the upcoming European elections.

Origin & value of the European Patients’ Rights Day

In 2002, Active Citizenship Network (ACN), together with a group of European citizens organizations, drafted the European Charter of Patients’ Rights, which has been translated in 16 languages and includes the following 14 rights: the right to preventive measures; access care; information; consent; free choice; privacy and confidentiality; respect of patients’ time; observance of quality standards; safety; innovation; avoidance of unnecessary suffering and pain; personalized treatment; to complain; to receive compensation. All these rights, based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, are crucial for European citizens and healthcare services. The majority of these rights were also embodied within the Council conclusions on Common values and principles in EU Health Systems adopted in June 2006.


Vytenis Andriukaitis 18 giornata
Vytenis Andriukaitis, former EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
attending the 10th European Patients’ Rights Day in 2016

The reinforcement of these rights would become effective only with the cooperation and commitment of all healthcare stakeholders in every European country. It is thus essential to increase awareness regarding the importance of patients’ rights and everyone’s responsibilities in guaranteeing their respect. The celebration of the European Patients’ Rights Day every year in all the EU Member States would greatly contribute to this goal, as a common occasion to inform, discuss and take commitments to improve patients’ rights in Europe and in each Member State. For this reason, ACN - together with citizens and patient organizations throughout Europe - have taken the initiative to organize for the last fifteen years a European conference to celebrate the European Patients’ Rights Day.

Now, the European Patients’ Rights Dayhas become a regular annual event on the European and national political agendas to inform, discuss and take commitments to improve patients’ rights in Europe and in each Member State. Every year, also thanks to the more than one hundred patient and civic associations of our network, the EPRD is celebrated in hundreds of cities and ways all around Europe, allowing civil society to fully enter policy making processes and achieve important objectives. For further information, please visit the dedicated session of ACN website.

Recent articles published by Cittadinanzattiva-Active Citizenship Network on the topic.

APPLIED SCIENCES RESEARCH PERIODICALS(July 2023, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 13-19): Medical desertification and National Recovery and Resilience Plan in Italy: Focus on Inner Areas
APPLIED SCIENCES RESEARCH PERIODICALS(June 2023, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 01-17): Health needs in Italy, between medical desertification and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Province where you go, shortage of health personnel that you find
 (10 May, 2023): Con il territorio e la pianificazione si combattono i deserti sanitari (IT)
HEALTH EUROPA (25 Apr. 2023): A call to action: Addressing inequalities between European healthcare systems
Breaking Latest News (Jan. 23, 2023): Shortage of nurses. “But does anyone know that there is a school in Bozzolo?”
STOL (19 Jan. 2023): Ärztemangel: Südtirol besonders stark betroffen (DE)
ITALY24PRESS(19 Jan. 2023): Ärztemangel und „Gesundheitswüsten“ Neun Regionen am stärksten betroffen (DE)
ANSA (19 Jan. 2023): Pénurie de médecins, Trentino Alto Adige parmi les zones les plus touchées – Trentino AA/S (FR)
NEWSRND.COM (19 Jan. 2023): Shortage of doctors and 'health deserts', 9 most affected regions
NEWS.ITALY-24.COM (19 Jan. 2023): Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto among the 9 regions most in crisis
THE NEWS DEPT (19 Jan. 2023): Shortage of doctors and “health desert”: nine regions with the smallest workforce
BREAKING LATEST NEWS (19 Jan. 2023): Shortage of doctors and “health deserts” Nine regions most affected
BREAKING LATEST NEWS (19 Jan. 2023): Shortage of doctors and ‘health deserts’, 9 most affected regions – Healthcare

Click here for the press review in Italian language

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