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European Reference Networks

European Reference Networks (ERNs) are networks of expert healthcare professionals from specialised healthcare providers across Europe. The networks seek to pool together the expertise available across Europe and concentrate knowledge and resources on rare and/or complex diseases. There are 24 ERNs, each focusing on a particular rare disease area. 

When and why were ERNs launched?

The first ERNs were launched in March 2017 in response to a European Commission call which featured as part of the ‘Third programme for the union's action in the field of health’. Their initiation and development emerged from EU legislation – Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. This directive recognises the value of voluntary cooperation between healthcare centres for specialised care.

What are European Reference Networks and their goals?

Pool together knowledge & expertise

By pooling knowledge and expertise across the EU, ERNs will facilitate access to diagnosis, treatment and provision of affordable, high-quality and cost-effective healthcare in these areas. Altogether, this will improve diagnosis and treatment capacities where expertise is rare.

Serve as focal points of highly-specialised care

ERNs will serve as focal points for medical training and research, information dissemination to other parts of the health system, and healthcare evaluation.

Improve high-quality specialised care

The aim is to benefit patients by improving high-quality specialised care, through better co-operation and greater economies of scale, from which health systems benefit as well. Diagnosis and treatment are improved by developing and sharing clinical guidelines and patient information.

Work on research and innovation for rare diseases

The ERNs help maximise the speed and scale at which innovation in medical science and health technologies is incorporated into healthcare provision. For this purpose, ERNs work in research and joint-partnership networks.

The European Reference Networks

The first 24 ERNs were launched in 2017, involving more than 900 highly-specialised healthcare units from over 300 hospitals in 26 Member States.

ERN BOND - European Reference Network on bone disorders - website

ERN CRANIO - European Reference Network on craniofacial anomalies and ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders - website

Endo-ERN - European Reference Network on endocrine conditions - website

ERN EpiCARE - European Reference Network on epilepsies - website

ERKNet - European Reference Network on kidney diseases - website

ERN-RND - European Reference Network on neurological diseases - website

ERNICA - European Reference Network on inherited and congenital anomalies 

ERN LUNG - European Reference Network on respiratory diseases - website

ERN Skin - European Reference Network on skin disorders - website

ERN EURACAN - European Reference Network on adult cancers (solid tumours) - website

ERN EuroBloodNet - European Reference Network on haematological diseases - website

ERN eUROGEN - European Reference Network on urogenital diseases and conditions - website

ERN EURO-NMD - European Reference Network on neuromuscular diseases - website

ERN EYE - European Reference Network on eye diseases - website

ERN GENTURIS - European Reference Network on genetic tumour risk syndromes - website

ERN GUARD-HEART - European Reference Network on diseases of the heart - website

ERN ITHACA - European Reference Network on congenital malformations and rare intellectual disability - website

MetabERN - European Reference Network on hereditary metabolic disorders - website

ERN PaedCan - European Reference Network on paediatric cancer (haemato-oncology) - website

ERN RARE-LIVER - European Reference Network on hepatological diseases - website

ERN ReCONNET - European Reference Network on connective tissue and musculoskeletal diseases - website

ERN RITA - European Reference Network on immunodeficiency, autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases - website

ERN TRANSPLANT-CHILD - European Reference Network on Transplantation in Children - website

VASCERN - European Reference Network on Rare Multisystemic Vascular Diseases - website

Want to learn more about ERNs?

Information folders have been produced by the European Commission in several languages.

Access the information brochure in your language via the button below.

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