WHO/Europe facilitates exchange of experience between Greece and Portugal on primary health care reforms


Under the "Strengthening capacity for universal coverage" (SCUC) initiative, WHO/Europe's Division of Health Systems and Public Health organized a study visit to Portugal for Greek policy-makers on 11–15 April 2016. The Greek delegation comprised representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Primary Health Care (PHC) Committee, E-Governance in Social Insurance SA (IDIKA), National Organization for Health Care Services Provision (EOPPY) and regional health authorities. The five-day programme included visits to PHC providers in Estoril, Seixal and Valongo, and a series of meetings with Portuguese policy-makers.

The aim of the study visit was to allow Greek policy-makers to familiarize themselves with PHC reforms in Portugal and the lessons learnt in the implementation phases that are most relevant to the Greek context. The key topics discussed were:

  • experience in introducing and implementing reforms from 2005 to 2015;
  • governance arrangements for PHC services within the national health system, including those related to:
    • practice guidelines and disease management;
    • contracting PHC services;
    • prescription of medicines and diagnostic testing;
    • coordination between different layers of care (especially between hospital and ambulatory care); and
    • payment schemes;
  • Portugal's experience with information system architecture and use of key performance indicators;
  • organization of health services in family health units (FHUs) compared to traditional PHC units;
  • patient empowerment and engagement;
  • implications of the PHC reforms in Portugal on medical education including curriculum development, training, retraining and continuous education; and
  • Portugal's experience in mobilizing, recruiting, and retaining staff for the new FHUs.

"During the effectively designed visit, we were exposed both to the strategic vision of the reform process and to the everyday functioning of the successful models of FHUs. The discussions with our inspired colleagues with diverse roles in the FHUs have clarified a lot of issues," said Professor Alexis Benos, Head of the PHC Committee, following the visit.

The Portuguese experience will be taken into consideration in the design and planning of the network of neighbourhood FHUs in Greece. The pilot of the first units will take place in 4 regions of the country in the second half of 2016, followed by a roll-out process, gradually increasing the population's coverage with PHC services in the coming years.


The SCUC action is carried out with funding by the European Union through a grant agreement between the European Commission and WHO/Europe. Its general objective is to contribute to improving health and health equity in Greece, especially among the most vulnerable in the population, by helping the Greek authorities to move towards universal coverage and to strengthen the effectiveness, efficiency and resilience of their health system.