Waiting times in Irish hospitals are currently 'the worst in Europe'
The European Health Consumer Index, published on Monday, has found that Ireland has the worst hospital waiting times in Europe.
The EHCI is now the leading comparison body for assessing the performance of national healthcare systems in 35 countries.
The report analyses national healthcare on forty-eight indicators, looking at areas such as patient rights and information, access to care, treatment outcomes, range and reach of services, prevention and use of pharmaceuticals.
This new index, which ranks countries with a minimum score of 333 and maximum of 1000, placed Ireland in 21st place with 689 points.
The report said that Irish patient organisations have been radically more pessimistic in their responses to the survey:
"It is well known that customers/patients have long memories for less good things. As the same pessimistic results reoccurred in 2016 – Ireland, the UK and Sweden had the worst patient organisation feedback on accessibility among the 35 countries – doubts must be raised on the validity of official statistics.
"As a matter of principle, in the EHCI 2014 – 2016 it has been decided to use the patient organisation feedback to score Ireland on Accessibility. This accounts for the drop from rank 14 to 22 in 2014, with a slight recovery in 2016."
The report continued:
"Unfortunately, this was confirmed by the Irish HSE and MoH after the release of the EHCI 2015 report, when they said in a memo that the programme initiated to reduce healthcare waiting times in Ireland aims at a target of no more than 18 months’ (!) wait for a specialist appointment. Even if and when that target is reached, it will still be the worst waiting time situation in Europe."
The EHCI found that European healthcare is steadily improving across the board, with infant mortality as well as survival rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer all moving in the right direction.
Patient choice and involvement are developing. However, on the issue of patient choice, the report noted that Ireland's legal stance on abortion is,
"A very minor step indeed towards abortion as a women’s right."
For the first time two countries, the Netherlands and Switzerland, broke the 900 points barrier in the EHCI - coming close to meeting every criteria for good, consumer-friendly healthcare.
Just behind these are Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Luxembourg, Germany and Finland. In spite of a general improvement among all national health systems a gap remains between the top performers (in Northwestern Europe and Switzerland) and the least developed ones (in former Central and Eastern Europe and Southeastern Europe).
Norway reaches a full score on patient rights. The same goes for Belgium, Macedonia and Switzerland on accessibility. Sweden and the Netherlands gain maximum score on range and reach of services.
The EHCI's Professor Bjornberg says that some countries pay far too much for healthcare, given their poor performance:
"Romania and Bulgaria have a tradition of long hospital stays which they cannot afford. Poland and Hungary try to deny the need for radical health systems reform. And Ireland sticks to inefficient, unequal semi-private funding."
The Health Service Executive are yet to release a statement on the report's findings.
*This article first appeared on HerFamily.ie