Healthcare system in Finland

The Finnish healthcare system is based on public healthcare services to which everyone residing in the country is entitled. According to the Constitution of Finland, the public authorities shall guarantee for everyone adequate social, health and medical services. In addition, numerous private healthcare services operate in Finland.

Public health care

In Finland, the wellbeing services counties, the City of Helsinki and HUS Group are responsible for the provision of healthcare.

Each wellbeing services county also belongs to one of the five collaborative areas, each of which has one university hospital. The wellbeing services counties belonging to the same collaborative area conclude a collaboration agreement on, for example, their mutual division of labour.

A wellbeing services county can provide the services by itself or in collaboration with other wellbeing services counties. Under certain conditions, services can also be procured from private companies and organisations or by providing clients with service vouchers. If necessary, the wellbeing services counties can also procure treatment from abroad.

Healthcare services are divided into primary healthcare and specialised healthcare. Primary healthcare services are mainly provided at health and social services centres and specialised healthcare usually at hospitals.

The treatment of some demanding and rare diseases and demanding treatment procedures have been centralised nationally in one hospital or unit. The treatment of children with congenital heart diseases (Helsinki University Central Hospital, HUCH), organ transplants (HUCH), severe burns (HUCH) and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (Turku University Central Hospital) are some examples.

The health services that the municipality must provide are laid down separately in the relevant Act. Nonetheless, the wellbeing services counties can decide how they provide services within the limits of legislation. For this reason, there may be differences in services.

The treatment of a patient is provided in either primary health care or specialised medical care depending on the level of care they require. The doctor assesses the need for treatment and, if necessary, refers the patient to specialised medical care. Patients cannot choose themselves whether the treatment they require is provided in the primary health care or specialised medical care system. Patients can, however, choose the health centre responsible for their treatment and choose together with the referring doctor the unit providing specialised healthcare..

Private health care

Private health services complement municipal services, providing more than a quarter of all social and health services in Finland. Private service providers, i.e. companies, independent practitioners, organisations and foundations, may sell their services to municipalities, to joint municipal authorities or directly to clients. Private operators provide both primary health care and specialised medical care services. In Finland, private health services are partly subsidised with public funds since Kela pays reimbursement for medical expenses.

Private healthcare companies must apply for a licence for their operations from a Regional State Administrative Agency or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira).  A licence is not needed when a healthcare professional provides services as an independent practitioner. However, independent practitioners must report their activities to the Regional State Administrative Agency. Licensed healthcare professional must have a licence granted by Valvira to practice their profession.


Numerous organisations operate in Finland. Organisations can serve as service providers to the wellbeing services counties and directly to the public. Their services supplement the public healthcare. Organisations also play an important role as part of civil society. The aim of many organisations is to, for example, promote public health or support patients in coping with their disease. Peer support and expertise by experience are important activities provided by organisations. These activities of the voluntary sector are not profit-driven and often based on voluntary work.

The umbrella organisation for social and health sector non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Finland is SOSTE. Information about social welfare and health sector NGOs has been compiled on the website of SOSTE.

Healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals in Finland are divided into licensed professionals and professionals with a protected occupational title. Licensing means that an individual has completed a training programme laid down in the relevant legislation and decrees and has been authorised to work in the profession in question and to use the occupational title in question. The licence is granted by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira).

Information on all licensed healthcare professionals is entered in JulkiTerhikki, the registered database maintained by Valvira. The register is public and open to everyone. You can check the professional qualifications of the person who treated you. The register contains information on the individual’s registration number and professional practise rights.

The professions with protected occupational titles may also be practised by those who otherwise possess the requisite training, experience and competence. Information on persons using a protected occupational title is entered in JulkiTerhikki.

The authority must notify the authorities of other EU countries if the operations of a health care professional are limited or prohibited.

Steering of health care

In Finland, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) is responsible for social and health policy and prepares legislation. The ministry steers health care in collaboration with the agencies and institutions under it. Agencies under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health include

  • the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
  • the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea)
  • the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority
  • the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL)
  • the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira).