A clinic in Stockholm. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT.
A clinic in Stockholm. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT.

Free choice in health care means sick people "pushed to one side"

The freedom to choose your health care providers has led to more inequalities in the sector, and that sicker patients end up further down the list of priorities, according to a review.

It is the national audit office that has evaluated the former, centre-right, government's flagship reform in the health care sector, which allows patients to choose health care provider and guarantee them care within a certain number of days or months.

According to the review, the changes, that were introduced in 2010, have improved the options when it comes to contacting the health care service, but it is mainly patients who are less ill, and have a higher socio-economic status, that have benefited.

"Patients with a bigger health care need are pushed to the side, in favour of patients with less need of health care," the report authors write in a press release.

For example, new health care providers have sprung up in more affluent areas, where the population is better educated and under the age of 70, while areas where there are more health problems have seen disproportionate amount of closed clinics.

The review also shows that healthy individuals are visiting the doctors more often since the reform, while patients who are more ill are doing fewer visits. And it does not seem that the chance of seeing the same doctor as before has improved, according to TT.

The report notes a conflict between different targets that is imbedded in the reform. It was meant to lead to a primary health care guided by the demands from the patients. But this collides with ethical principles of what needs to be prioritised.

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