26 January 2018
Dr Mary Guy shares details of her new research project ‘EU Health Law and Policy – Shaping a future research agenda’ in collaboration with Dr Eleanor Brooks (Edinburgh) which is being funded by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant.

Dr Eleanor Brooks and I have been working on aspects of EU health law and policy for several years, including in the context of our respective doctoral research (M Guy, ‘Competition Policy in Healthcare Systems – A Comparative Study of the Netherlands and England’, Intersentia, forthcoming 2018; E Brooks, ‘From public health to macroeconomics: The evolution of European Union health policy’, Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2020). Our combined interest in wider EU health law and policy from our fields of law (M Guy, W Sauter, ‘The History and Scope of EU Health Law and Policy’, Chapter 1 in eds. Hervey, Young and Bishop, ‘Research Handbook on EU Health Law and Policy’, Edward Elgar 2017), and political science (E Brooks, ‘Health Ownership of Health Policy? Challenges and Concerns in the New Era of EU Health Policy’ EuroHealth, Vol.21(4), 2015) provides the basis for a first interdisciplinary collaboration to develop a future research agenda. We have been awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for this project which runs between January 2018 and March 2019.

Prior to the economic crisis, EU health policy and law was attracting growing interest and had developed as a subject worthy of consideration in its own right within the academy (Hervey and McHale, ‘European Union Health Law – Themes and Implications’ CUP 2015) and amongst policy practitioners (Greer, Fahy et al., ‘Everything you always wanted to know about European Union health policies but were afraid to ask’, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 2014), with some overlap between the two.  

Despite a limited mandate, the EU institutions had extended their influence over national health systems via a range of legislation and initiatives which have changed the nature of existing health law.

However, in recent years, changes in focus of the EU institutions and other factors such as Brexit have led to a fragmentation of EU health scholarship. This has happened at a time when DG SANTE is considered to contribute to several of the European Commission’s 10 priorities for 2015-19, but health does not form a priority in itself. Furthermore, the effects of wider changes to fiscal policy, such as the European Semester, on national and EU-level healthcare policies are starting to unfold. This raises questions as to whether generalised and wide distinctions reflected in earlier scholarship between “healthcare system organisation” on the one hand, and “public health”, on the other, can be maintained.

In April 2018 we will host a workshop at Lancaster Law School in a “world café” format to facilitate discussion among senior academics and practitioners and early career researchers and define research challenges in this area. Confirmed participants include Professor Tamara Hervey (Sheffield), Professor Johan van de Gronden (Nijmegen), Dr André Den Exter (Rotterdam), Nick Fahy (Oxford), and Rita Baeten (European Social Observatory, Brussels).  We will be circulating further invitations and more information in the next few weeks.

The discussions from the Lancaster workshop will form a basis for a further workshop with more formal presentations to be hosted at Edinburgh University in November 2018. These workshops and the resulting networks will shape two co-authored articles by myself and Dr Brooks and a proposal for a special issue, as well as develop the participants’ research interests in this area.