The National Health Council is an independent advisory body aimed at ensuring NHS users’ engagement in policy definition. Its creation follows the best international practices and reflects what studies in the health area deem as important, by establishing an alliance across the whole society in the definition of a broad vision for the future of the health system.
The National Health Council also aims to promote promoting a culture of transparency and accountability towards the society. The creation of the National Health Council was preceded by hearings with several bodies representing citizens and users of health services, as well as other entities: the Autonomous Regions, the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities, the National Association of Parishes, the Professional Associations of Biologists, Dentists, Doctors, Nurses, Nutritionists, Pharmacists and Psychologists, the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities, the Coordinating Council for Higher Education Institutes, the Standing Committee for Social Dialogue, the National Council for the Social Economy and the National Council of Ethics for the Life Sciences.
Although legally foreseen for over 25 years in the Health Basic Law (1990), the National Health Council was only enacted in 2016.
Decree-Law No. 49/2016 – Government Gazzette No. 161/2016, Serie I from 23 August 2016 [in Portuguese]– Establishes the legal framework of the National Health Council
The mission of the National Health Council is to provide the participation of various scientific, social, cultural and economic entities, in building broad consensus on health policy.
It is the responsibility of the Council, on its own initiative or whenever requested by the Government to consider and make statements and recommendations on issues related to health policy, in particular:
Annually, the National Health Council produces and presents to the Minister of Health and to the Parliament a report on the health of the Portuguese, issuing the recommendations it deems necessary.
The Council is also responsible for promoting public analysis and debate on health policy, as well as raising public awareness on issues relevant to Public Health, either on its own initiative or in collaboration with other entities, through the organization of conferences and the public presentation of the most important issues submitted for the Council’s analysis.
The Council plays a role in the preparation of World Health Day (April 7) and assures national representation in international meetings of similar organizations. The Parliament may also request the issuance of opinions to the National Health Council.
The National Health Council is composed of 30 members, which includes a President and a Vice-President. The Council shall meet in plenary session at least twice a year and, extraordinarily, whenever convened by the President, at the request of the Government or a third of the Council’s members.
Members shall serve for a period of four years, not renewable. On its own initiative or at the request of any member, the president may invite external entities or personalities, as well as convene the top leaders of the Public Administration services, to participate in the meetings, without the right to vote.
Where necessary, and taking into account the composition of the Council, specialized committees may be set up to carry out studies or prepare opinions.
In addition, the Council may request from any public or private entities such elements as it deems necessary to carry out its mission, which must, within the scope of their attributions and competencies, provide all the support requested. Services and bodies of the central, regional and local public administration collaborate with the Council, providing all the information requested by the President.
A group of experts also continuously supports the implementation of the Council’s activities.