Health For Members

What are waiting times in Norwegian hospitals like?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
What are waiting times in Norwegian hospitals like?
The Norwegian healthcare system's increasingly long waiting lists have been a topic of much discussion in recent months. Photo by Ronaldo Pangan on Unsplash

In case you need to get hospital treatment after moving to Norway, it's good to have a solid overview of the healthcare waiting times in the country. The Local takes a look at the situation based on the latest figures.


There's been a lot of debate in recent months related to the ever-longer waiting lists in the healthcare system in Norway.

Many of the recent adverse developments are connected to the backlog that followed the 2020-2022 coronavirus pandemic. But what did things look like before Covid-19? 

According to the figures published by the Norwegian Directorate of Health for the 2016-2020 period, average waiting time in the somatic sector – that is, operations and treatment of physical diseases and ailments – amounted to 60 days in 2016, 58 days in 2017, 60 days in 2018, 61 days in 2019, and 65 days in 2020. So, it seems that the trend in the abovementioned period was pretty stable.

Note that waiting times vary between the different specialist areas. The figure shows that, in 2020, the longest waiting times were registered for otolaryngology treatments (68 days), eye diseases (65 days), and orthopaedic surgery (63 days).

You can find the estimated waiting times in the Health Directorate's report here.


Are things getting better?

Unfortunately, they aren't. As of January 2023, the waiting times have only gotten longer – and 2022 figures are the highest in Norway in the last seven years.

Last year, people in Norway waited an average of 66 days to be seen by specialists in the health service, as P4 recently reported. That is the longest registered waiting time in Norway since 2015.

The waiting time in the somatic sector was up to 76 days – depending on the specialist area.

In January, Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol said that the waiting time situation is primarily due to three years of the COVID-19 pandemic and that many planned treatments have been postponed.

However, she believes that it is to be expected that the queues and waiting time will decrease in the longer term. 

When it comes to the accident and emergency departments at hospitals, how long you wait will depend on a number of factors. First up, it's worth knowing that patients in accident and emergency are treated on the basis of the severity of their ailment or injury. Secondly, it will depend on the number of staff and number of other patients. Therefore it can be hard to pin down how long you can expect to spend in an emergency department. 

Worried patients

The Office of the Patient Ombudsman received many complaints from worried healthcare users in recent months.

"Some are either worried about the development of an illness, because they have to wait, or that they are in daily pain," Ombudsman Jannicke Bruvik said in mid-January, noting that there is an ever greater increase in inquiries and complaints about waiting times.

"That means they (patients) will have to walk around with ailments for longer... And with a fear that they can develop a major disease during that waiting period, which means that they will get a worse end result than what they would have had if they had been operated on earlier," Bruvik explained.


Health Minister Kjerkol has modest targets for this year.

"The target for waiting times in 2023 is that they don't increase more than last year. We have to have an honest conversation about prioritising when the situation is as demanding as it is now," Kjerkol said in her annual speech on hospitals in Norway.

The Local recently covered the increase in the waiting time for getting a GP in Norway.

A considerable number of people are currently affected by this problem since there is a shortage of doctors in the country, leaving some 175,000 people without access to a physician. You can find our article on the issue here.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also