Rights and obligations when using the medical care services

Last updated: 20 9 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about rights and obligations when you are in contact with the health and medical care services. It can be helpful to know what your rights are as a patient. The text describes various rights that you have when you are in contact with medical care services. It explains the maximum waiting time guarantee, high-cost protection and reporting sick. It also talks about the Communicable Diseases Act and what your obligations are if you have a serious infectious disease. 

A doctor seated in conversation with a patient at a medical care centre.
  • The right to health and medical care

    Everyone is entitled to having the best possible physical and mental health. The right to health is important in realising other rights, such as to be able to work or go to school. Other rights also have an impact on the right to health. If you have nowhere to live, for example, or if you do not have a job, it will affect your well-being.

    Everyone is also entitled to medical care. A person who is in acute need of medical care must receive it first. People who work in the medical care services have to respect the equal worth of all people. You are entitled to be received in a professional and respectful manner by medical care staff. This applies regardless of your gender, gender identity, ethnicity, language, sexuality, religion or education. But you do not have the right to demand to be treated by staff of a specific gender, ethnic background, religion or similar. 

Rights when using the medical care services

  • As a patient, you are always entitled to be received and treated in a professional manner. You must always be given the opportunity to describe your complaints yourself. You are the one who knows your body best.
  • You are entitled to receive care within a reasonable period of time. This is known as the maximum waiting time guarantee.
  • You are entitled to participate in your own care. Medical care staff must, to the greatest extent possible, devise and carry out care together with you on the basis of your wishes and your medical needs.
  • Children are entitled to participate in their own care and treatment. Care staff have to ask children what they think and adapt the examination or treatment as much as possible to this. For example, a child must be allowed to interrupt an examination or treatment to take a break or to try again another time. Children also have to be involved in deciding how medication is to be taken or how an examination is to be carried out when there are several ways which are equally good.
  • All women, both when pregnant and when not, are entitled to free maternity care. Midwives work in maternity care. They help you monitor your health and carry out exams during pregnancy.
  • You are entitled to read your medical records. That is where medical care staff keep note of everything to do with your complaints and your care. Log in to 1177 Vårdguiden to read your medical records.
  • Medical care staff have a duty of professional secrecy. This means that no one in medical care services may provide information about you to other people without your prior approval. There are exceptions, however. Sometimes the police, Försäkringskassan or the social services, for example, may be given information about you without your prior approval.
  • You may be entitled to an interpreter. If you tell the care services that you need an interpreter before your visit, they can usually arrange one. The interpreter also has a duty of professional secrecy. Children or other family members may not act as your interpreter.
  • You are entitled to seek medical care at any medical care centre anywhere in the country. You are also entitled to change medical care centre and to seek specialist care in other regions than the one where you live.
  • You are entitled to free advice on abortion and contraceptives.
  • You are entitled to make a complaint if you are dissatisfied or if someone has treated you badly. Speak first to the staff at the ward or department you visited. You can also contact the Patients' Advisory Committee (Patientnämnden) in your region for help with making your complaint.
  • You are entitled to aids such as a wheelchair or a hearing aid if you need them. Sometimes such aids will be provided for free, and sometimes you will have to pay a fee, depending on the municipality and region you are in. Speak to the staff at your medial care centre if you want to know more about aids.
  • You may also be entitled to receive money for travel costs to a hospital, a medical care centre or a dentist. There are rules about what types of travel you can receive money for.
  • Questions to think about

    What do we mean by saying that that the hospital staff and the interpreter have a duty of professional secrecy? Why is this important?

    Why is it important for advice about abortions and contraceptives to be free of charge?

You must not make discriminatory demands

It is important that you, as a patient, and members of your family or relatives, show respect for medical care staff. It is your medical condition that determines what medical care staff will treat you. You are not entitled to demand to be treated by staff of a specific gender, ethnic origin, religion or similar. If you turn down treatment by a specific member of staff, you are in effect turning down the care you have been offered. But you are still entitled to seek medical care from another care provider.

Maximum waiting time guarantee and high-cost protection

Healthcare guarantee

In Sweden, people sometimes wait a long time for care. In order to avoid people having to wait too long, there is something called the healthcare guarantee. The healthcare guarantee is written into the Health and Medical Services Act and means you have a right to receive care within a set time period.

Primary care – If you are trying to reach primary care services such as your primary care centre, you have to make contact the same day. Contact can mean that you get an appointment at a primary care centre or you are able to speak to someone on the phone. If primary care personnel, for example a nurse, think you need to see a doctor, you will not need to wait more than seven days for an appointment.

According to the maximum waiting time guarantee, you must be assessed by a qualified member of the medical care staff, such as a nurse or a doctor, within three days.

Specialist clinic – If you receive a referral to a specialist, you will not need to wait more than 90 days for your appointment with the specialist. The same rule applies when you have sought specialist care without a referral.

Treatment – When your doctor has decided that you have to receive treatment, for example an operation, you will not have to wait more than 90 days for the treatment.

If you become acutely ill, you do not have to wait. A patient who is acutely ill must be given care as quickly as possible.

High-cost protection

High-cost protection is protection against high costs for care and medicine.

High-cost care protection means that you do not have to pay more than a specific amount for medical care per 12-month period. This 12-month period begins with your first visit to the medical care services, regardless of when during the year this happens. Once you have paid up to the limit, you become entitled to a free pass, and this free pass then applies for the rest of the 12-month period, meaning that you pay nothing for your visits until the end of the period.

The high-cost care protection limit amount is SEK 1,150.

High-cost medication protection means that you do not have to pay more than a specific amount for many forms of medication per 12-month period. This 12-month period begins when you make your first purchase of medication. Once you have paid up to the limit, you do not have to pay any more for medication during the remainder of the 12-month period.

The high-cost medication protection limit amount is SEK 2,350.

All children in the family are counted as one and are included in the same high-cost protection. This applies to high-cost protection for both medicine and care.

Medicines for children under the age of 18 are free.

The Communicable Diseases Act

Sweden has a law called the Communicable Diseases Act which was enacted in order to prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases. The law specifies rights and obligations of people who contract certain diseases, including HIV, chlamydia, tuberculosis, salmonella, hepatitis A and syphilis.

The Communicable Diseases Act contains a list of diseases. There are about 60 of these. These diseases are subject to a notification obligation.

The law also stipulates that you have to notify the medical care services if you think you have been infected by one of these diseases. You must also tell them who (one or more persons) may have infected you. Some of the diseases covered by the Communicable Diseases Act are spread through sexual contact.

If you contract one of these diseases all examinations, treatments and medicines are free. You will also be given help to contact any people you may have infected.

The Public Health Agency of Sweden is an authority that has information about the Communicable Diseases Act and diseases.

  • Questions to think about

    Why is it important that it should not cost anything for a person to be examined to determine whether they have an infectious disease?

Calling in sick

You may be entitled to compensation if you become ill and unable to work, look for work or take care of your child. This is known as sickness benefit and is intended to compensate for the money you would have received if you could work, look for work or take care of your child. If you want to receive sickness benefit, you have to report your illness and apply for sickness benefit from Försäkringskassan. If you are studying and get student aid, you can apply to Försäkringskassan to retain your student aid during the period that you are ill.

The rules for sickness benefit are different depending on if you are unemployed, employed, have your own business, on parental leave or studying.

When you apply for sickness benefit, you have to provide a doctor's certificate that explains why you are unable to work, look for work or take care of your child. It is common for doctors to email a doctor's certificate to Försäkringskassan after your appointment. You can always ask your doctor about how it works.

You can apply for sickness benefit on Försäkringskassan's website, and there are several different options for how to do it there. There are also forms you can print out, fill in and post to Försäkringskassan.

SGI

How much you will receive in sickness benefit is based on your SGI (sjukpenninggrundande inkomst, or income qualifying for sickness benefit). Your SGI depends on how much you earn or receive in allowances. You do not need to apply to get an SGI. Försäkringskassan will assess and determine your SGI when you make an application for sickness benefit.