Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office

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EXPLAINED: How to get the flu vaccine in Norway 

Flu season is upon us, but who is eligible for a influenza jab? Where can you get one in Norway, and what does it cost? 

Here's how you can get the flu-jab in Norway. Pictured is a doctor preparing an injection,
Here's how you can get the flu-jab in Norway. Pictured is a doctor preparing an injection,Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

A bout of flu is never nice, and in some cases, you can get seriously ill, with some risk groups more prone to severe illness than the rest of the population. Influenza can lead to severe pneumonia, among other things, and also exacerbate any existing conditions one might have. 

In Norway, nearly 1.6 million people are advised to get a flu jab this year, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. But, so far, only four out of ten of those in risk groups have received the shot. 

Seasonal flu vaccines in Norway contain four types of flu virus; two A strains (one of the H1N1 subtype and one of the H3N2 subtype) and two B strains (Victoria and Yamagata). 

Municipalities began receiving shipments of flu jabs in mid-October, with the rollout in most places beginning shortly after. 

Who is recommended to get a jab? 

Everyone over the age of 65 is recommended to get a flu jab annually, as well as care home residents, women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant (or those in the first trimester that belong to a risk group), and premature babies born before week 32 of pregnancy aged between 6 months to 5 years. 

In addition to this, children and adults are advised to get a flu jab if they have chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, liver and renal failure, an impaired immune system, a neuromuscular disease that affects breathing, multiple disabilities, or if they are severely obese.

If you think you may have a health condition that means you are more at risk, you can ask to be assessed by your doctor. 

The seasonal influenza jab is also recommended for those working in health, pig farming, and those living with or in close contact with immunosuppressed people. 

Everyone else who wants to receive a flu vaccine will need to pay (more on that below). You can read more on who can get a flu jab on the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s website here

Where to get one

Municipalities handle the rollout process, so how, where, and who you get your vaccine from will depend on your local authority. 

To find out where you can get the vaccine in your area, you should check with your local authority or GP’s office. 

If you belong to a risk group, your local GP or the municipal flu vaccine service should contact you. If you are in a risk group or eligible and haven’t heard from the authorities regarding your flu jab its best to get in touch with them. 

You can also book an appointment for a flu jab at a pharmacy. However, as this is not included in Norway’s flu vaccination program so will come with additional costs. 

How much does it cost?

This year the flu vaccine is free for everyone who belongs to a risk group or for employees who are obliged to be offered a flu vaccine by their employer. 

This means health workers and other personnel in the health and care sector who have regular contact with patients can get jabbed for free. 

For those getting vaccinated at a GP, there will be a deductible of 50 kroner for the service. For those who have a free card, the vaccine will be free. Free cards are issued to those who pay the maximum annual amount of yearly deductibles. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Vaccines taken as part of an offer from the municipality are completely free. 

The cost will be considerably more for those who opt to take a flu vaccine at a pharmacy. This is because the pharmacy will charge for the vaccine and also the vaccination service. This also applies to those in target and risk groups. 

The price of a vaccine at pharmacies will vary due to differing prices for the jab and services, but as an example, a vaccine from Apotek 1 costs 399 kroner.