Thurrock health campaigner goes to European Parliament

THURROCK resident Ella Vine has visited the European Parliament to speak up for people living with chronic pain. Ella was one of UK’s representatives to the Pain Alliance Europe, a coalition of patient organisations from all European countries, lobbying for legislative changes on European and national levels to improve the quality of life for people living with chronic pain.

Ella, who has lived with chronic pain for 16 years and leads the UK’s national fibromyalgia charity, said: ‘’It was great to be able to speak up in Brussels for UK’s patients living with pain. During MEPs ‘’Brain, Mind and Pain’’ group meeting in the European Parliament the leading theme this time was improving access to work and working conditions for people living with chronic pain and neurological disorders.

A Written Declaration on ‘’Access to Employment and Education for those affected by brain disorders and chronic pain conditions’’ was presented, which calls for further support for employees living with chronic pain, such as flexible working hours, and a better support for carers.

A Pan-European patients’ survey showed that the vast majority of people living with chronic pain are at work and therefore an urgent action is needed to improve their working conditions, so that work is healing for them and do not further impair their health.

During the meeting in the European Parliament it has been highlighted that many people living with chronic pain are at risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. The European Commission wrote a Framework on Occupational Work & Safety and Member States agreed to improve social security systems to enhance social inclusion. A representative of the newly started Dutch Presidency re-affirmed its commitment to prioritise focus on improvement of the lives of people living with chronic pain conditions, e.g. flexible working.

At a separate meeting of Pain Alliance Europe, a coalition of patient organisations, a number of future campaigns and achievements were discussed. The main achievement of the Alliance and other patient organisations was to successfully lobby the European Commission for a directive on cross-border healthcare, where pain has received a special classification. The Directive focuses on improvement of the quality of healthcare in member states.’’

Ella adds: ‘’It is great to raise awareness about chronic invisible illness on all levels, from European to local, because that’s how we change societal attitudes, break the stigma attached to invisible disability and change people’s lives for better. There are some improvements, but still more needs to be done and this is a task for everyone, from politicians, employers, GPs, colleagues and families of people affected by a chronic invisible illness.’’

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