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The Swedish healthcare culture

Healthcare is a central feature of the Swedish welfare state. It is the largest of all public sectors, and accounts for a large proportion of public consumption. A decent healthcare service with high accessibility and quality also constitutes a valuable resource for the entire population. It is our most important insurance against ill health.

One of the cornerstones of the Swedish healthcare system is that the cost is spread over the entire population via tax. Another is that healthcare is to be available to all on equal terms throughout the country. Another cornerstone is the strong position enjoyed by the patient.
All patients are to feel a sense of involvement in their dealings with the healthcare services; they are en-titled to choose their doctor within primary care and suitable treatment when several medically justified therapeutic options are available, and to obtain a second opinion in the event of a difficult or complicated diagnosis. Patients are also entitled to demand detailed and comprehensive information on their condition and the therapy offered. It is therefore important that the healthcare personnel with whom patients have contact have a good command of Swedish and can make them selves understood in conversations with the patient.

The previously rather strict national control of the healthcare sector has been abandoned, creating greater opportunities for local organisational solutions.
The statutory division of responsibility between different categories of personnel has also been relaxed. Old territories and hierarchies between different professions are starting to make way for teamwork and greater convergence of opinion as to how the healthcare services are to be run. The mutual cooperation between doctors and nurses is based on respect for each other's skills and qualifications. The Swedish Medical Association is convinced that a richer ethnic diversity in the healthcare sector promotes cross-disciplinary cooperation, better leadership and pragmatic care for the benefit of the patient.


Useful to know

Practical responsibility for the healthcare services in Sweden rests on the county and municipal councils, which are known as the healthcare principals. The municipal councils are responsible for the care and nursing of elderly and disabled people who do not require medical help.

The Swedish healthcare services

Sweden has 18 county councils, two regions and one general council (Gotland) with the equivalent authority over the healthcare area, and 289 municipal councils. The county councils, regions and municipal councils are politically controlled bodies.
The county council health services are provided on three levels: primary/outpatient care, county health services and regional health services.
Primary care forms the basis of the healthcare system; it is also meant to operate preventively and for the health of the entire population. All illnesses, diseases and injuries that do not require hospitalisation or other specialist treatment are taken care of at this level. The county hospitals possess the competence and medical equipment for more or less all illnesses and diseases. Sweden's county councils (and regions) collaborate through six healthcare regions, each of which has one regional hospital that treats more unusual or complicated diseases or injuries. The county council has responsibility for all other healthcare services. The private healthcare sector is relatively small, but has expanded considerably over the past few years. It largely consists of businesses that operate on contract for the county councils.

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