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Portugal Health Care Climbs in EU Ratings

By Susan Stults Korthase

Summary: Expats in Portugal live in a country with a health system designed to provide universal coverage. Susan Stults Korthase offers information about how the system fared in a recent international survey about European health systems.

Portugal Health Care - Health care portugal

In an international survey into European national health systems, Portugal's National Health Service (SNS) has fared better than a number of others in Europe, including the UK's NHS. Portugal ranked higher than the UK and Spain in the assessment of 35 different European countries, evaluated from a consumer's viewpoint. The Netherlands performed the best and again topped the Euro Health Consumer Index, with Portugal having climbed six places over the past 12 months, overtaking the UK and neighboring Spain. The survey is conducted by the Swedish Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), and this year ranks Portugal in 14th position, with 763 points out of a possible 1,000. While the Netherlands once again topped the 2016 ranking, Romania was at the very opposite end, in bottom position. Over the last few years, Portugal has climbed from 25th place in 2012, to 16th the year after and again to 13th in 2014.

It then plummeted to 20th position in 2015, seemingly because of "a less favourable perception by patients due to waiting times," before climbing again this year. Released at the end of January, the 2016 report identifies Portugal's weakest points which require more investment in terms of "accessibility", again because of long waiting lists and problems in accessing specialist consultations; a high caesarean rate; and "diversity and coverage of services offered."

On the plus side, improvements have been made with regard to patients' rights and results from treatments and preventions.

The Euro Health Consumer Index has, over the years, garnered criticism for its method of compiling the information, which is based on public statistics, information from patient organizations and independent research. It has come under fire from specialists who question the thoroughness of its results. Portugal's National Health Board (DGS) has collaborated with the authors of the report in successive years since 2009.

Addressing this year's outcome, Catarina Sena, spokesperson for the DGS, said Portugal surpassed the UK and Spain "because it is better classified in terms of accessibility, with, among other aspects, the possibility to book a same-day doctor's appointment being seen as an added bonus." Speaking to newspaper Publico, she noted however that Portugal's overall score is "penalized" because the study "is based on an ideology that sits in dispute with our system, that is, which provides indiscriminate access to healthcare and Portugal, which follows the Beveridge model (also followed in the United Kingdom), is based on a concept of prior reference, usually via primary health care [family doctor]."

About the Author

Susan moved to Portugal in 2010 following a career in international human resources and consulting. As CEO of Communications Matters, Susan has completed many writing, project management and website optimization projects from the sunny home in Cascais that she shares with freelance photographer husband Craig. Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, International Living and on several blogs.

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First Published: Feb 07, 2017

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