Southampton, 2008, The Future of Primary Care in Europe II


15/17 September 2008: Southampton, The Future of Primary Care in Europe II

Southampton turned out to be a good and timely experience knowing the enthusiasm of the participants, the presence of high level speakers and the fact that the whole world is discussing Primary Care.

The conference delegate list included a wide diversity of key-experts from all corners of Europe and many different professions. There were presentations of high ranked officials from the UK government, WHO and the EC. But the greatest strength was the perfect ambiance that allowed participants to meet those colleagues that they needed for their further work, be it in research, practice or policy development. We may expect many new members that will help us to achieve our ambitions in Primary Care development: establishing change through innovation!

The recent article by Dr Margaret Chan, director of the WHO, also published in a recent issue of the Lancet, underlines the importance of the Southampton conference. In this article she refers back to the declaration of Alma Ata, 30 years ago, that articulated primary health care as a set of guiding values for health development, a set of principles for the organization of health services, and a range of approaches for addressing priority health needs and the fundamental determinants of health.

At the Southampton conference it was Dr Wim van Lerberghe, editor in chief of the World Health report 2008, that provided us with those key-principles within care delivery. His message was clearly to support initiatives for a stronger emphasis on primary care during the next World Health Assembly in 2009, using the World Health Report as a reference. This could make a difference how the WHO and it's member states will act in the next future in defining their Health Systems. Reading the report of the WHO commission on Social Determinants of Health, chaired by Prof. Sir. Michael Marmot, we may believe that more can be done for equity in health care delivery and that vulnerable groups in our society will profit more than ever from health care, everywhere in the world.

It was good to hear at the first day of the conference that also other professions are supportive to the ideas of the Forum to strengthen Primary Care. The president of the European Federation of Nurses underlined the need for close collaboration between the different professions in this respect. New training modules where the different professional groups learn from each other and get more familiar with each others strengths and weaknesses could add a lot to create better collaboration.

A special remark should be given to the fact that the delegates shared the opinion that the organisational aspects of care delivery including Primary Care were still not high enough on the research agenda. Nick Fahey, the DG Sanco representative at the third day of the conference could not deny this.
Relating this with the overall feeling that there are lots of innovations in Primary Care but so little change if we look at health care policy measures, it is highly needed to develop more and in depth research about what works in Primary Care and what not.
This defines already the title of our next biennial conference that will take place in Pisa in two years time (30/31 August 2010): "From Innovations to Change in Primary Care".

For an impression of the scope of the conference, please have a look at the book of Geoff Meads, �Primary Care in the 21st century� . The book can be ordered by