Introduction to Health and Social Services and EPSU

Health and Social Services Sector:

The President of the EPSU Standing Committee for Health and Social Services is Dr. Marget Steffen. The EPSU policy officer is Mathias Maucher.

Find out who is your EPSU representative for health and social services here

The health and social services sector is a large and diverse sector, including many different services such as hospitals, child care, community health services, social work and homes for older and disabled people. We represent 3.5 million health and social services workers across Europe, and are engaged in a wide range of issues on their behalf. The categories of workers range from social worker to doctor to hospital cleaner to medical secretary to nurse.
EPSU is the recognised European social partner organisation for workers in the hospital sector throughout the European Union.

What are the main issues for EPSU?

Health and Social services, including hospital services, are essential in guaranteeing human rights.
It is part of the Member States’ public responsibilities to promote a high level of public health and social protection and to ensure quality services. Health and social services must be organised on the basis of common European social values including solidarity, social justice and social cohesion. It is essential that EU-internal market or competition rules do not limit the EU Member states’ autonomy in the implementation of these national responsibilities.

It is the interest of the people, the society and the workers that is the highest concern for EPSU. The EU should therefore support and push its Member States and neighbouring countries towards the development and maintenance of strong, well-funded health and social infrastructures, governed and regulated by public authorities.

Critical for a good delivery of services are the conditions under which health and social service workers perform their jobs. It is impossible to provide quality services without adequate staffing levels and a healthy and safe working environment. Workers need to receive appropriate pay and training. EPSU is concerned about the long and irregular working hours in the sector and the difficulties many workers have to reconcile work, private and family life.

As trade unions we need to combat inequalities and mistreatment in Europe. The huge gaps in wages and living conditions force health workers to migrate, and makes them vulnerable for exploitation by unethical agencies and employers.

What is the European context?

The European Union has, since the late 1990’s, extended its influence in the health and social services sector through a series of Court judgements. These judgements, in particular the decisions on patient mobility have opened the way to further market influence in the sector.
Legal and semi-legal initiatives will only aggravate the situation, and would put additional pressures on governments to reform health and social services into competition and/or market-based systems. This development needs to be countered through a European-wide adoption and implementation of public principles, including universality, accountability, affordability and above all solidarity

What are EPSU trying to achieve?

EPSU recognises that what will guarantee that fundamental rights and makes health and social services, accessible to all, is political will. EPSU has a proven track record in forming powerful alliances with other interested organisations to force this point. Professional representatives, NGO’s and HOSPEEM the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers’ Association, have provided the rallying call for the principles that provide the foundation for health and social services.

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