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First class or nightmare? Here’s what you think about Norway’s hospitals

The Local’s readers in Norway have provided a mixed appraisal of the wealthy Scandinavian country’s healthcare system.

First class or nightmare? Here's what you think about Norway's hospitals
Photo: fotonen/Depositphotos

A politician from Norway's Conservative party recently called for eyecare for people with cataracts, glaucoma or diabetes to be partly transferred from doctors to optometrists. He listed shortening journeys for patients – a notable advantage in rural areas – as one of the potential benefits.

A recent national survey placed climate change as being above healthcare on the list of priorities for voters, meanwhile – although people over 45 did place a higher importance on healthcare than their younger counterparts.

When we asked readers of The Local in Norway for their experiences of the country’s hospital system, they were mainly positive, with people praising both Norwegian medical staff and the system itself.

But there were also points of criticism in the survey, which was answered anonymously.

Of everyone who responded, more had a positive impression than a negative one of the care they had received at a Norwegian hospital.

43.8 percent said they had received “first class” or “good healthcare”, while 37.6 percent described their experience as “not good” or “nightmare”. 18.8 percent placed their experience in the “average” category.

Forms response chart. Question title: How would you rate the care you received at a hospital in Norway?. Number of responses: 16 responses.This provides an interesting contrast to our readers in France, however. A huge 87.2 percent were impressed by the care they received there.

“(I) love how MDs ask you to call them by their first names,” one reader said, while another praised “excellent” and “respectful” care in Norway.

Others cited the fact that healthcare is free in Norway (in contrast to, for example, the United States) as being part of their reasoning for receiving a positive impression from a hospital visit.

“Broken arm dealt with quickly and efficiently even though it was Sunday morning,” was another comment we received, as was “doctors have time to talk to you; clean, modern facilities, up-to-date equipment and procedures”.

Waiting times

In terms of specific problems our readers have encountered when receiving healthcare in Norway, waiting times at acute clinic and distance from healthcare in remoter regions were both mentioned.

“I’m in pain because of my gallstones and yes, I waited for five hours in the emergency (unit),” one reader wrote.

Another said: “I live in Tromsø and although the quality of care is good, the local hospital is poor at following up results and appointments”.

Asked for overall impressions of the health service in Norway, responses were decidedly mixed, with an even split between good and bad impressions.

Forms response chart. Question title: How do you rate the overall health system in Norway, including GPs, specialist care, hospitals etc?. Number of responses: 16 responses.Expanding on the overall ratings they gave to the Norwegian health system, one reader praised the “excellent entry point system of local doctors”, while another was more critical, writing that they found it “often slow to get (a) GP appointment”.

“Once diagnosed and “in the flow” then (things run like) clockwork,” they added, however.

“The Norwegian health care system gives patients choices. Exercise your rights if you are not satisfied with your fastlege [general practitioner, ed.] or the local hospital,” one of our readers wrote by way of advice to users of the Norwegian health service.

Another person encouraged learning Norwegian to reduce potential misunderstandings.¨

READ ALSO: The Norwegian habits that are just impossible to shake off

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For members


HEALTH: How to switch GPs in Norway 

For whatever reason, you may wish to change your GP, or 'fastlege'. Luckily, you are allowed to do this- but there are still some rules you should know about.

HEALTH: How to switch GPs in Norway 

The overwhelming majority of people in Norway are entitled to a GP, and if you are reading this, you likely have one already. 

For those without a doctor, you will need to be enrolled in the National Insurance Scheme and have a national identity number. 

However, you won’t automatically be assigned a GP, and you’ll have to register with a GP yourself. 

READ MORE: How to register with a doctor in Norway

When are you allowed to change doctors? 

If, for whatever reason, you want to change your doctor, say you don’t gel with them, find it hard to get an appointment or have heard great things about another GP, then you can change your fastlege

The Norwegian GP system allows for decent flexibility, and you are allowed to change your doctor up to two times in one calendar year, for whatever reason you wish. 

You can also change your GP if your address in the national population register changes or your current doctor leaves the surgery or cuts their patient list. 

How to change doctors 

To switch doctors, you will need to head to Norway’s digital health portal, helsenorge, and log in. You will need an electronic ID such as Commfides, BankID or Buypass ID to sign in. 

Once signed up, you can select the county you are in and see a list of doctors in your local area. The list will have the doctor’s name, age and gender, and if a substitute is covering them. 

The new doctor you choose doesn’t have to be in the same municipality as your address. For example, if you live in an area with not many appointments available, you could select a doctor in the next kommune if convenient for you. 

When you change GPs in Norway, you’ll need to ensure your new doctor has access to your medical records. It is your responsibility to do this, and much like signing up for a new GP, this isn’t done automatically. 

Having your medical records sent over to your new doctor simply involves contacting your former GP surgery and asking them to forward your record to your current practice. Your medical records also contain information from when something has been followed up, for example, notes from a scan or specialist.  

If you move homes within Norway and decide to relocate back to the municipality you were living in, you can be re-enrolled with your original GP if you return within three years of moving away.