Increasing equality in the Icelandic healthcare system

Healthcare system

Iceland’s Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, explains her ambition to increase equality in the country’s healthcare system

Around 100 days have elapsed now since I took over as Minister of Health in Iceland’s new government. I took on this cabinet post with the principal aim of increasing equality in the healthcare system. Our healthcare system should aim at offering everyone services comparable to the best available anywhere in the world and ensuring good access to healthcare services to everyone.

The new government’s platform emphasises equal access to health care in a broad sense. This means that individuals’ access to healthcare regardless of economic circumstances needs to be ensured. We can do this, for instance, by reducing the patients’ contribution to healthcare services, to ensure that everyone can avail themselves of necessary care.

Equal access to healthcare services regardless of location is another factor. These include primary healthcare services, maternity and prenatal care and other types of care which are considered basic services. Demographic trends, the travel industry, transport and communications, varying distances from the capital area and changing age patterns result in different needs for healthcare institutions in non-urban areas. The service needs of each healthcare region have to be assessed and long-term programmes prepared aimed at providing services for all residents. Everyone in Iceland needs to be ensured suitable basic healthcare in their local area.

Action is also needed in many other areas of the healthcare system. Mental health services need to be reinforced throughout the country, aimed at providing equal access to healthcare. The government will also place emphasis on prevention and public health, as well as launching a major campaign to expand care home capacity and ensure their financial operating basis. Hospital services are also a key component of a good healthcare system.

A strong and well-functioning national hospital is a pre-requisite for ensuring a country-wide healthcare service which is comparable to the best anywhere in the world. The operating basis of the National University Hospital (LSH) needs to be reinforced, as it is responsible for research and education and it is here that all more complex operations and extensive care are provided. LSH serves the entire country, complementing local healthcare and therefore provides support for the overall healthcare system.

We also need to give impetus to the construction of a new hospital in Reykjavík. One of the largest tasks we face in the coming years is to ensure better future premises for hospital services in Reykjavík.

All these aspects and plenty more, in addition, can be improved and their implementation assured by preparing a comprehensive healthcare strategy: Good healthcare services are based on a clear strategy, which is and should be part of the social contract. A strategy which prevails despite elections and changes in government focused on equal access to healthcare services regardless of economic situation, location or other factors and where public funds are utilised prudently and sensibly. Which is why it is a priority to complete work on drafting a clear and focused healthcare vision and strategy – as guidance for the ministry, all individual institutions and operators providing healthcare services. It must state clearly who is responsible for each area of service, whether they overlap and not least whether in some places services are lacking which are most definitely needed. By doing so we create a better society for everyone.


Svandís Svavarsdóttir

Minister of Health, Iceland

Ministry of Welfare


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