Availability of treatment in Finland

In public health care, maximum times have been prescribed for access to treatment. Access to emergency treatment must be provided immediately. Non-urgent treatment is regulated separately for health centres, specialised medical care and dental care.


Maximum times for access to treatment in public health care

Access to first aid and emergency treatment must be provided immediately, regardless of the patient’s place of residence. For emergency treatment, there are emergency clinics at health centres and hospitals.

Non-urgent medical care is provided at health centres. Specific time limits have been set for guaranteed access to treatment. If a health centre or hospital cannot provide treatment within the prescribed time, it must acquire it elsewhere.

Municipalities and hospital districts must publish on their websites information about waiting times for treatment at least every four months. In addition, the National Institute for Health and Welfare publishes statistical information on access to treatment in both primary health care and specialised medical care. You can request information on the waiting times directly from health centres and hospitals.

You will always receive urgent medical care in Finland’s public health care. The right to receive non-urgent treatment in Finland varies. You can read more about the right to treatment here.

Maximum times for health centres

Your health centre should be reachable without delay by telephone during weekday office hours. Reachability by telephone means that, in addition to making an appointment, you are provided with advice and a preliminary plan for procedures, and information about how to deal with an ailment, a symptom or a problem. You can also visit the health centre in person or, in some municipalities, contact the health centre through the municipality’s website.

The need for treatment must be assessed no later than on the third working day from your contact unless it can be assessed by telephone. The need for treatment can also be assessed by a health care professional other than a doctor.

You must be able to access treatment within three months of the assessment. You must be able to access oral healthcare within three months, but your treatment can be postponed on justified grounds for a maximum of six months. If the examination finds that you need hospital treatment, hospital treatment must be started within six months of the assessment of the need for treatment.

If your health centre or hospital is unable to treat you within the time limit, you can receive treatment elsewhere, either in another hospital district or in the private healthcare system. If necessary, the treatment may also be purchased from abroad.

Maximum times for specialised medical care

Access to non-urgent specialised medical care requires a doctor’s or dentist’s referral. An assessment of the need for treatment must be started within three weeks of receipt of the referral at the hospital.

The need for treatment is assessed either on the basis of a referral or in further examinations. Any further examinations that may be needed or a specialist’s assessment must be made within three months of the unit receiving a referral. The treatment must start within six months of the date on which the need for treatment was ascertained.

With respect to mental health services for children and young people, the need for treatment must be assessed within six weeks of receiving a referral. Individuals below the age of 23 with mental health problems must be able to access treatment within three months of the need for treatment being ascertained.