Every month we put the spotlight on one of our members. Today, we are delighted to catch up with BAG SELBSTHILFE, the German national coalition of patient organisations and disability groups, who recently joined EPF.
- What’s on the top of your agenda?
Our main objective is to improve the healthcare of all chronically-ill and disabled people. A decisive element is the continuing development of patient participation in the decision-making bodies of the healthcare system, in order to contribute to the care structures and the benefits catalogue of health insurances. Politically, it is a question of effective patients’ representation.
- Why does your organisation exist?
The self-help movement in Germany is very well organised, with organisations for all major diseases; for a multitude of rare diseases; and for all kinds of disabilities. BAG SELBSTHILFE is the collective exchange platform of all these organisations.
- What is your biggest achievement as an organisation?
In the past two years, we have been able to achieve significant legal improvements in the field of care. The specific demands of people suffering from senile dementia are now much better represented and these patients have genuine, equal access to the care system.
Furthermore, we have achieved important improvements in the field of medical aids. People with substantially impaired vision, for instance, can now benefit from subsidies for spectacles from the statutory health insurances. Patients are entitled to improved counselling when it comes to the provision of medical aids and have a much wider choice without additional cost. In the Joint Federal Committee (G-BA) we have been organising the patients’ representation for years, which comprises approximately 220 active patients’ representatives.
- What is for you the key benefit of your organisation’s involvement in EPF?
We would like to improve the exchange of ideas with our partner organisations in other European countries and to share our views with EPF in European discussions.
- What are your main challenges?
One of the main problems in the German healthcare system is the fact that people with disabilities do not have equal access to healthcare services. Many medical practices are not accessible, which makes it difficult for people with disabilities to find a physician. BAG SELBSTHILFE has repeatedly addressed this problem to the politicians, resulting in occasional improvements. The main problem, however, remains unsolved.
Another problem is the complexity of the healthcare system in Germany. Many patients are unaware of their rights and do not understand the available information. In this respect BAG SELBSTHILFE contributes to a national alliance for the improvement of health literacy.
Finally, in the past years, there was an attempt to make the German healthcare system more efficient by intensifying the competition between health insurances and physicians. This has led to an economic vision of healthcare, which is frequently to the detriment of patients.