European Reference Networks

The European Commission Implementing Decision of 10 March 2014 on European Reference Networks (ERNs) and the Delegated Act on the criteria and conditions for joining these ERNs which were adopted on 10 March 2014 will enter into force on 27 May 2014.

The European Reference Networks are set out in Article 12 of the Cross Border Healthcare Directive which was set to be implemented by Member States by October of last year, with limited success.  The goal of ERNs is to establish voluntary networks for healthcare professionals improve care. To qualify, ERNs must fulfil three of the following criteria:

  • to help realise the potential of European cooperation regarding highly specialised healthcare for patients and for healthcare systems by exploiting innovations in medical science and health technologies;
  • to contribute to the pooling of knowledge regarding sickness prevention;
  • to facilitate improvements in diagnosis and the delivery of high-quality, accessible and cost-effective healthcare for all patients with a medical condition requiring a particular concentration of expertise in medical domains where expertise is rare;
  • to maximise the cost-effective use of resources by concentrating them where appropriate;
  • to reinforce research, epidemiological surveillance like registries and provide training for health professionals;
  • to facilitate mobility of expertise, virtually or physically, and to develop, share and spread information, knowledge and best practice and to foster developments of the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases, within and outside the networks;
  • to encourage the development of quality and safety benchmarks and to help develop and spread best practice within and outside the network;
  • to help Member States with an insufficient number of patients with a particular medical condition or lacking technology or expertise to provide highly specialised services of high quality.

Despite the degree of flexibility in what areas an ERN can target set out the in Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, Annex I of the Delegated Act is much more restrictive. A successful Network must: “provide highly specialized healthcare for rare or low prevalence complex diseases or conditions”.

This would indicate highly preferential treatment to rare diseases as a low prevalence seems to be an essential requirement.  This delegated and implementing act goes on to set out the specifics of the selection of ERNs and the conditions that healthcare professionals wishing to join must fulfil. While the sections on applying healthcare professionals are largely related to their qualifications there are a few key points that members of VPH must note with regard to applying:

  • On 28 May 2016, a call for expression of interest to establish an ERN must be published by the Commission which will invite interested candidates to apply;
  • Any group of at least 10 healthcare providers established in at least 8 Member States may apply;  
  • While a European Commission sanctioned group will assess the value of an application it is the “Board of Member States” which has the ultimate decision on whether or not to establish a network;
  • Frequent assessments of the added value of the networks are envisaged;

The full text of the Delegated Act and Implementing Act can be found here and here.



Date: 09/06/2014 | Tag: | News: 264 of 645
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