The Case for Advancing Selfcare in Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in European Healthcare Systems – An Essential Pandemic Preparedness Measure
As European health systems recover from a once in a life-time pandemic, these health systems are now coming under new pressure in this post-pandemic transition period to address the backlog of disrupted health services. This presents increased patient and health professional safety risks as ‘burnt out’ staff and under resourced health systems try to deliver services to the quality and safety standards mandated by their national and European Union legal, policy, practice protocols, and standards frameworks. Any strategies to alleviate this increased service use pressure would improve patient access and patient/health worker safety enormously.
The European Union, through the European Council, has been championing the need for an International Treaty on Pandemics at the World Health Organization. This international pandemic preparedness instrument aims to prevent the domino like collapse of health care services we witnessed in Europe during this pandemic. The collapse started at the primary healthcare level when the unprecedented demand for upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) services resulted in a ripple effect as all staff were withdrawn from the frontline and other health services to address the URTI workload. This opened many structural, human resources and public health fault lines in our health systems. A harmonised approach to address upper respiratory tract infections would assist future pandemic preparedness in Europe.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the patients’ health seeking behaviour for upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) received a new focus. There was at first a sharp rise in GP consultations that paralysed the health services, then we had increased risk of cross infection (visiting patient-patient, patient -health professional), under pressure many GPs were pressured to write out prescriptions for antibiotics, and then telehealth was adopted that reduced the pressure on health services and introduced self-care.
The International Alliance of Patients Organizations (IAPO), a non-State Actor in Official Relations with WHO, would like to acknowledge the tremendous support and guidance from the over 200 other non-State Actor in Official Relations with WHO, in particular the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the Global Selfcare Federation, who helped us understand and shape this response to the Pandemic Preparedness Treaty.