About the Swedish healthcare system

In Sweden, the healthcare system is decentralised, which means that it is managed and run either by the regions, local authority or municipality. Health, medical and dental care is divided into public and private sectors.

Every county council, local authority or municipality is responsible for managing and prioritising its own healthcare resources. As a result, the type of healthcare services available may vary.

Public and private healthcare

The Swedish National Healthcare Services are both public and private. Public healthcare is managed and provided either by the county council, local authority or municipality.

There are two types of private healthcare.

  • Healthcare services provided by a private company under contract with the county council, local authority or municipality. In the event of such contract, the cost of private and public healthcare is the same.
  • Healthcare services provided by a private company under no contract with the National Healthcare Services. As a patient, you are then liable to pay for the full cost of any treatment and care you receive.

When contacting a healthcare provider, it is therefore recommended that you ask if they are under contract with the National Healthcare Services.

Primary care

In Sweden, the basic health and medical care is generally referred to as primary care. The full definition of primary care can be found in the terminology database of the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The primary care services are comprised of general medical practitioners offering medical examinations, care and treatment of most common conditions and illnesses. However, if necessary, your doctor will refer you to another medical specialist such as a surgeon or orthopaedic. In addition, health and medical care is offered by specialist nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dentists.

Patient fees

Patient fees are set by each region and vary across the country. Some visits are generally free of charge, such as child and school health care, screening or health care for the elderly. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need more information on patient fees.

Read more about patient fees at the healthcare guide 1177.se (in Swedish)

Prescriptions

Prescriptions of medicines or medical devices are normally done digitally in Sweden. If you have a prescription from your country of residence that you want dispensed in a Swedish pharmacy, ask your doctor if it is possible to submit the prescription digitally or if you must bring it with you on paper.

Read more about prescriptions at the Swedish E-Health Agency

Screenings

Screening for certain types of illnesses is normally available through the primary care services. If you are looking to get vaccinated, this is done both in the primary care services and in special vaccination clinics. Contact your caregiver for more information.

Specialised care

Specialised care is care that requires more specialised medical measures than what is available through primary care. You do not need to have referral from the primary care before you contact the specialist care. However, the absence of a referral from your doctor may result in a higher cost and longer waiting time.

Highly specialised care at certain hospitals

The highly specialised care offered in Sweden is referred to as National Specialised Medical Care. In order to maintain the highest quality of care and best use of resources available, only one or two hospitals in Sweden are authorised to provide highly specialised care. The National Board of Health and Welfare determines what type of care is considered highly specialised and in which county such highly specialised care should be offered.

If you are in need of highly specialised medical care or treatment for a rare disease, your caregiver may be collaborating with the European Reference Networks, ERN, to deliver medical opinions on your case from doctors in another European country. For more information, talk to your caregiver or look at the ERN website.

Dental care

Unlike the rest of the Swedish National Healthcare Services, the dental care is not divided into primary and specialised care and is provided by general dental practitioners. Specialist dental care under the National Healthcare Services requires a referral from your dentist. However, if you are registered with a private dental practice then no referral is required and you can contact the dental specialist directly.

Swedish dental care is both public and private. The public dental care, found in every county and region, is generally referred to as the National Public Dental Services.
When dental care is part of another medical treatment, it is regarded as healthcare whereupon the dental care is charged at the same rate as the medical care.

For more information about the cost of dental care, contact your county council or local authority.

Elderly care

If you are elderly and in need of assistance in your home or you are looking to move to an elderly care home, you have the right to get help from your municipality. Contact the municipality where you live to get more information on options and providers of service. Normally, there are both public and private providers in municipalities that provide home help services or elderly care homes.

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