Our spring EFPC symposium in Canterbury had promised sunshine and daffodils.

Instead the long-awaited event was hindered by some of the coldest weather in Europe. Snow closed airports and train stations as the ‘Beast from the East’ gave new meaning to English sub-zero temperatures.  Nonetheless, intrepid pilgrims trekked from Europe – and as far away as Brazil – to join in discussions on how we can integrate health care systems to bring communities closer to primary care, and improve health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable in society.

EFPC Chair and CHSS Professor Sally Kendall chaired the symposium, delightedly welcoming delegates from Brazil, Belgium, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Slovenia, Switzerland and UK. Sadly, delegates from Austria, some parts of the UK and the Netherlands were prevented by the weather, but participated via video-link.

Keynote speaker, Professor Pavlos Theodorakis, (WHO Primary Care Centre, Almaty, Kazakhstan) highlighted important societal and policy changes since 1978’s Declaration of Alma Ata. These will inform October’s 40th anniversary discussions in Almaty. The message that Universal Health Coverage is for all and can be compatible with person-centred primary care was an important one to hear.  CHSS Professor Jenny Billings’ comprehensive overview of the challenges of introducing new integrated care models highlighted Encompass in Kent.

Professor Henk Parmentier (Europe World Federation for Mental Health) gave insights on the importance of integrated mental health care in improving the health experience for hundreds of thousands suffering at the margins of the system across Europe.

After lunch Professor Jan De Maeseneer led the second panel, presenting his approach to community and primary care integration from his years of experience in Ghent and how we can change the system by transforming education and training.

Professor Kate O’Donnell, trapped by snow in Glasgow, presented over Skype. Her session focused on improving health for Europe’s migrant populations; refugees and asylum seekers seeking shelter, security and access to health care.

CHSS Professor Stephen Peckham closed the symposium with his provocative session on how new care models are emerging, and the challenges of change, policy implementation and sustainability.

By 4pm the sky was full of snow and delegates headed back to hotels and airports. The Symposium had successfully brought European primary care interests into a forum where significant policy, integration and access issues could be debated openly, with the sense of community at its heart.

Symposium presentations available on the CHSS website https://www.kent.ac.uk/chss/events/events.html


1 “Suspended” an installation in Canterbury Cathedral created from discarded fragments of refugees’ clothing found on European beaches.  (photo by courtesy of Canterbury Cathedral)

2   Canterbury Cathedral on 2 March