Informal Health Council: 12th July 2013

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry)
EU Health Ministers met in Vilnius, in Lithuania, on 8 and 9 July. I represented the UK. The agenda included discussions on sustainability of health systems, mental health and well-being of older people, and of smoking prevention in youth.

The meeting began with a discussion on sustainable health systems, with emphasis placed by the presidency on the need to reduce health inequalities. There was broad agreement that innovation in technology is an important tool in making healthcare more efficient and affordable.

For the UK, I stressed that while the EU can add value to member states work on the three major life choices of smoking, obesity, and alcohol, it is important that the principle of subsidiarity is respected. I noted the important recent progress on the tobacco products directive, which crucially allows member states to go beyond the requirements of the directive where this is essential for public health.​

Many member states highlighted the importance of member states collaborating to learn from each other.

There was also a discussion on the mental health and well-being of older populations, during which I stressed the equal importance of mental and physical health, and the UK work on dementia.

The second day included discussions on smoking prevention in youth, focusing on nicotine containing products and on the marketing of tobacco.

The meeting concluded with an AOB item on differential pricing of medicines in member states. A variety of different views were expressed but the UK and a number of other member states opposed the launching of any new EU initiative on the pricing of medicines as this is a matter of member state competence, while recognising the common issues faced by member states, particularly in relation to rare diseases.