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'Confusing and no communication': How you rate Denmark's health system

The Local Denmark
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'Confusing and no communication': How you rate Denmark's health system
File photo: Morten Stricker/Midtjyske Medier/Ritzau Scanpix

The Local’s readers in Denmark have provided a critical appraisal of the Scandinavian country’s healthcare system.


According to a report in Danish media last week, the government is struggling to increase the number of nurses in Denmark's health system, despite having promised more.

But what is the impression overall of foreign residents who have experienced the country’s public health system?

When we asked readers of The Local in Denmark for their experiences of the country’s hospital system, responses were decidedly mixed – but with negative views outweighing the positive.

However, amongst the dozens of replies we received, many took time to praise Danish medical staff and the system itself.

Thank you to all who took the time to get in touch.

Of everyone who responded, more had a negative impression (47.4 percent) than a positive one (17.2 percent) of the care they had received at a Danish hospital. 25.4 percent rated their care as “average”.

Forms response chart. Question title: How would you rate the care you received at a hospital in Denmark?. Number of responses: 59 responses.


That does not compare favourably with neighbouring Norway, where we asked our readers to respond to a similar survey. There, 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.Both countries contrast markedly to the views of our readers in France, however. A huge 87.2 percent were impressed by the care they received there.

Asked to rate the health system in Denmark overall as either ‘very good’, ‘average’ or ‘bad’, over 45 percent of our 59 respondents chose ‘bad’. 15 percent selected ‘good’.

Forms response chart. Question title: How do you rate the overall health system in Denmark, including GPs, specialist care, hospitals etc?. Number of responses: 59 responses.In terms of specific problems our readers have encountered when receiving healthcare in Denmark, waiting times at acute clinic were prominent, but not the only issue.

Paula Reis, formerly of Copenhagen, said: “Lack of beds to stay in and long (three hours) waiting time at an emergency room. Besides that, everything was good.”

“At one hospital there were numerous beds with patients sleeping in the cardiology department corridor, something I would never expect to see in a Danish hospital,” Reis added.

Gelu Timoficiuc, who lives in Næstved, described: “Confusing or no communication, long waiting times, conflicting diagnosis. Everything seems to be a big ‘system’ and everyone is somehow anonymous. This makes it very unpleasant and it feels somehow that I am not in safe hands.”

“The GPs seem to have all the incentives to push you away with a (paracetomol) or with a minimum recommendation like to drink more water,” Timoficiuc added.

Anne Clerc said: “Many health problems could be identified a lot earlier if more focus was put on prevention and better investigation when people report symptoms. Also, doctors and nurses often don't deem necessary to fully explain the protocol chosen to the patient.”

“Ask lots of questions! Do not expect that anyone sits down and explains what is happening,” Timoficiuc wrote by way of advice to users of the Danish health service.

“Make sure to be informed of what is being chose as a treatment,” Clerc said.

Dignity and kindness

Despite what appears to be a primarily negative view of Denmark’s health system in our survey, many of our readers praised several aspects of it.

Henriette Johnsen, who lives in southern Denmark, reported: “When presenting with symptoms of serious character, I have always had quick and easy access to thorough treatment by good and caring medical staff who have taken the time to exam me properly and explained things to me.”

“Don't dismiss the system just because it is different to what you're used to,” she added.

Johnsen was one of a number who cited the fact that healthcare is free in Denmark (in contrast to, for example, the United States) as being part of their reasoning for receiving a positive impression of Danish healthcare.

Will Kuehne, who lives in Copenhagen, wrote: “Friendly doctors, punctual service once you get your appointment, clear process.”

But Kuehne also mentioned that “the hospital care was sub-par but my primary physicians seem quite attentive and good”.

 “I had surgery I should’ve healed from within two weeks. I visited the hospital three times post-surgery and was told it just takes a little longer. Had to visit a specialist before I received follow up care and attention needed to properly heal,” he explained.

Sabrina Desiken in Copenhagen said: “I was a few weeks pregnant and I was throwing up every 20 minutes. The nurses were very kind and helped me every time I puked.”

“They also gave me a blanket first before they even got my CPR number [social security details, ed.] as they could see I was freezing,” she continued, also praising the “dignity and kindness” of medical staff.

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