Sweden slumps in healthcare ranking

Austria has the best healthcare system in Europe, while Sweden has slumped from 4th to 6th place, according to a report released on Monday by Health Consumer Powerhouse, a healthcare information company.

Sweden slumps in healthcare ranking
Photo: Salim Fadhley

The index provides an annual ranking of European healthcare systems from the perspective of the consumer. And Sweden may have the best treatment results but it also has the longest waiting times.

Number two in this year’s ranking was the Netherlands, followed by France, Switzerland and Germany. There was a cluster of Nordic nations just outside the top five, with Sweden in 6th place just pipping Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Patients in Sweden can expect top-notch medicines and a broad scope of care, but the country is bucking a downward trend when it comes to waiting times across the continent.

“Other countries are cutting their waiting times but Sweden is dragging its heels,” said Dr Arne Björnberg, the project leader for the index.

“We are also behind our Nordic neighbours, where both Norway and Finland are making progress. If Sweden had normal European waiting times we would clearly take home first place,” he added.

The managing director of Health Consumer Powerhouse, Johan Hjertqvist, suggested a solution:

“It’s about time that the government introduced sanctions against councils which do not do something about their waiting times within a year,” he said.

The report drew a distinction between the two types of healthcare systems in Europe: ‘Bismarckian’, where the health insurance organisations are independent of the healthcare providers, and ‘Beveridgian’, where financing and provision of healthcare takes place within one organisation.

The Swedish system was the highest-ranked of the Beveridge systems, leading the report’s authors to conclude that “while not at all arguing that the Bismarck-type healthcare systems are in every way superior, it seems that for total customer value, the Bismarck model runs rings around Beveridge”.