top of page

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.

Did you know?


That there are 23 other ERNS

Each ERN has their own disease areas, click on the button below to see an overview of all the ERNs!

Want to learn more about ERNS?

Informative videos and information folders have been produced by the European Commission in several languages.

Have a look at the video below or access the information brochure in your language via the button below.

bottom of page