Affiliated partnership is a European Commission-led initiative developed to address concerns regarding the geographic coverage of the ERNs. In 2019 a call was open for healthcare providers to apply to become 'affiliated partners' of an ERN. Applicants had to be designated on a national level but were not required to meet the same criteria as ERN members. Affiliated partner designations could not be made by member states with a member hospital already involved in ERN CRANIO.
There are two types of affiliated partner:
An Associated National Centre is a healthcare provider with at least some special expertise matching the global thematic domain of a given reference network that concentrates primarily on the provision of healthcare directly related to the activities and services of this specific network, including any type of diagnostic contribution supporting this provision of healthcare.
A National Coordination Hub is a healthcare provider that can link the national healthcare system to a number or all European Reference Networks. National Coordination Hubs function as interfaces between the national healthcare system and those Networks where a given Member State is neither represented by a full member nor by an Associated National Centre. National Coordination Hubs do not need any specific medical expertise.
ERN CRANIO affiliated partnerships have been formalised for the following healthcare providers:
- University Hospital Salzburg (Austria) - Associated National Centre
- Riga Stradins University, Cleft Lip and Palate Centre (Latvia) - Associated National Centre
- University Medical Centre Ljubljana (Lithuania) - Associated National Centre
- Vilnius University Hospital Santaros Klinikos (Lithuania) - Associated National Centre
- Prof. dr S Popowski Regional Specialised Children's Hospital, Olsztyn (Poland) - Associated National Centre
- Mater Dei Hospital (Malta) - National Coordination Hub
The involvement of affiliated partners in ERN CRANIO activities depends on the capacity of the healthcare provider and their level of experience and expertise.