What are ERNs

European Reference Networks (ERNs) are virtual networks involving healthcare providers across Europe. They aim to tackle complex or rare diseases and conditions that require highly specialised treatment and a concentration of knowledge and resources. Currently, 24 thematic ERNs are active, involving over 900 medical teams in more than 300 hospitals from 25 EU countries, plus Norway.
A network connecting health care providers and centres of expertise of highly specialised healthcare, for the purpose of improving access to diagnosis, treatment and the provision of high-quality healthcare for patients with conditions requiring a particular concentration of resources or expertise no matter where they are in Europe. For clinicians who network widely already, the ERN will represent the formalisation of their networking structures/practices in highly specialized healthcare. For those without specialist networking communities at present, ERNs will promote expertise and support health care providers in order to bring local, regional and national provision of healthcare closer to the patients.


Legal background

  • Directive 2011/24/EU  on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare;
  • Commission delegated decision (annex) listing the criteria and conditions that healthcare providers and the ERNs should fulfil;
  • Commission implementing decision (annex) containing criteria for establishing and evaluating ERNs, including the exchange and dissemination of information about the ERNs.


Publications and video