Mare Finns see long queues, high fees complicate health, social services access

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More and more users of health services find that there are problems with access to the services, according to a study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The Healthy Finland Study showed that fifty-seven per cent of men and 63 per cent of women find that too long queues have made it more difficult for them to get treatment, said THL in a press release referring to the study on Thursday.

Problems with access to health services have increased by about 10 percentage points compared with 2020.

High client fees are also found to have complicated access to services. About one third of the users of health services and almost one half of the users of social services think this way. In health services, the increase is 15 percentage points and in social services, 17 percentage points compared with 2020.

About 60 per cent of the men and women who have used social services find that there are problems with finding a suitable service and with sufficiently quick access to the service. Compared with 2020, the situation has remained the same.

“It is worrying that people consider it difficult to find a service that is suitable for themselves and access to the service slow. This may delay or prevent the use of the service. Some of the users of social services are in a life situation where their opportunities to look for services are weak,” said Senior Researcher of THL Katja Ilmarinen.

“The delay of the health and social services reform, the care and treatment backlog caused by COVID-19, and the worsening shortage of personnel complicate access to services. Improving the accessibility of primary services and securing the personnel resources are an important task for the wellbeing services counties when they reform the service network,” said Chief Specialist of THL Anna-Mari Aalto.

The survey carried out in autumn 2022 and winter 2023 showed that people with a low level of education experience more problems with accessibility of health services than highly educated people.

In addition to access to treatment, there are also socio-economic differences in their experiences of treatment. People with a lower level of education are more dissatisfied with the care process in health services.

“The central goal of Finnish social and health policy is equitable access to services. However, based on this survey, it is realised poorly. There are structural factors in our service system that cause considerable socio-economic differences in access to treatment even by international standards,” Anna-Mari Aalto said.

When evaluating their last appointment in health services, 70 per cent of the users of health services find that the service met their needs and almost equally many find that interaction with the professional was positive.

Even of the users of social services, at least one half have a positive experience of the interaction, but only 40 per cent think that the service met their needs.

“Clients’ experiences of health services are slightly more positive than their experiences of social services. The matters dealt with in social services are often more complicated and more difficult to solve than in healthcare, where the matter may be solved during one appointment,” Katja Ilmarinen said.

“Trust in the professional and trusting that support will last and that the matter will progress in the service situation improve the service experience. At worst, staff turnover and poor flow of information in services such as home care may cause dangerous situations", she added.

Compared with 2020, the use of digital services has increased by approximately 10 percentage points in health and social services. Thirty-three per cent of men and 41 per cent of women now report they use digital services in health and social services.

The use of digital services has also increased clearly among people aged over 65 years: from 12 to 15 per cent among men and from nine to 14 per cent among women between 2020 and 2022.

The use of digital services in general, for example, in MyTax or online banking continues to be more common than the use of digital services in health and social services. In general, nine out of ten adults use digital services, while digital health and social services are used by significantly fewer people.

Almost one in five people feel they need guidance in using digital health and social services. Younger generations need guidance less often than others. Still, there are a total of 62,000 people who need support among those aged between 20 and 39 years. Among people aged over 75 years, there are already 346,000 of them.

“The ability to use digital services cannot be taken for granted, which is why people of all ages must have opportunities for competence development throughout their life. Practising the use of digital services could be part of teaching at the primary and secondary level,” said Researcher Maiju Kyytsönen.

A total of 61,000 randomly selected persons aged 20 and over from different parts of Finland were invited to the Healthy Finland Survey. Of those invited, 28,000 (46%) responded to the survey. The sample for the survey was formed so that the results can be generalised to all of Finland. Results are also available by wellbeing services county.

  •  Health
  •  Social
  •  Services


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