European press statement

New international report by Doctors of the World shows paediatric and delivery care still far from universally accessible throughout Europe

Although the right of pregnant women and children to healthcare is one of the most basic, universal and essential human rights, more than half of the pregnant women seen by Doctors of the World in 2014 had not had access to antenatal care. Only one-third of children seen had been vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR). Europe needs to transform its impressive body of recommendations regarding universally accessible healthcare into real actions.

This Monday 18th of May 2015, the International Network of Doctors of the World – Médecins du monde (MdM) launches its new European report – “Access to healthcare for people facing multiple health vulnerabilities. Obstacles in access to care for children and pregnant women in Europe” at a press conference in London. The survey is based on 41,238 face-to-face medical and social consultations with 22,171 individuals in nine European countries in 2014.

The right of pregnant women and children to healthcare is one of the most basic, universal and essential human rights.

And yet this report finds that more than half (54.2%) of the pregnant women surveyed had not had access to antenatal care. The overwhelming majority had no health coverage (81%). Less than 1% of pregnant migrant women (including EU citizens) had migrated for health reasons.

Shockingly, only one-third (34.5%) of children seen across Europe had been vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR), and only slightly more (42.5%) against tetanus.

Nearly all patients seen (91.3%) were living below the poverty line. The vast majority (84.4%) had faced at least one act of violence.

Almost two thirds (62.9%) of the patients seen had no health coverage, mainly due to restrictive laws that exclude certain groups. The most cited barriers to accessing healthcare were inability to pay for care (27.9%) and administrative problems (22%). The consequence:  22.9% of patients perceived their physical health as (very) bad; when it comes to mental health, this rises to 27.1%.

The data also clearly dispels the myth of health tourism to Europe among destitute migrants: only 3% of migrants seen by MdM had migrated for health reasons, the average time that migrants had been living in the surveyed country before consulting MdM was 6.5 years, and only 9.5% of chronically ill migrants knew about their condition before coming to Europe.

Although European policy makers increasingly recognise the impacts of the economic crisis and austerity measures on access to healthcare, little has changed in practice for destitute people. MdM urges Member States and EU institutions to ensure universal public health systems built on solidarity, equality and equity, open to everyone living in an EU Member State. All children residing in Europe must have full access to national immunisation schemes and to paediatric care. All pregnant women must have access to terminations of pregnancy, antenatal and postnatal care and safe delivery.

Very few undocumented migrants get seriously ill in Europe, mostly long after their arrival. They should be protected from expulsion when effective access to adequate healthcare cannot be ensured in the country to which they are to be expelled.

MdM urges all health professionals to take care of all patients regardless of their status or existing legal barriers, in accordance with the World Medical Association’s Declaration on the Rights of the Patient.

The infographic and the complete report can be downloaded here:

Consult the documents in English.

Consultez les documents en français.

Consulte los documentos en español.


Follow us during the press conference via hashtag #Health4all