Living in Finland

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Patient’s rights

The rights of a health service customer are protected by law. These rights apply to both public and private services, as well as the health services provided by homes for the elderly and services for the disabled.

If you have a municipality of residence (kotikunta) in Finland, you are entitled to use public health services. You can find more information on the Infopankki web page Municipality of residence in Finland.

Treatment guarantee (hoitotakuu)

If you are in need of urgent care, for example, after being in an accident, you have the right to immediate help at the nearest health centre’s or hospital’s emergency clinic. If you have no municipality of residence in Finland, or you have no other grounds for the right to use public health services in Finland, you must pay the price for these health services in accordance with their actual costs.

If you have a municipality of residence in Finland, you are entitled to use the public health services of your own municipality. On weekdays during office hours, health centres must answer patients’ phone calls or be open to receive patients. If the situation demands it, you have the right to a visit to a health centre within three weekdays of requesting an appointment. Health centres are also obliged to begin non-urgent treatment within three months at the latest.

Hospitals admit patients with a doctor’s referral. Hospitals must estimate the need for treatment within three weeks of the arrival of the doctor’s referral to the hospital. If it is discovered that the patient requires hospital care, treatment must be begun at the latest within six months from the assessment of the need for care.

If the patient’s own health centre or hospital cannot treat the patient within the prescribed time, the health centre or hospital must arrange an opportunity for the patient to receive treatment elsewhere. No extra cost for this must be incurred for the patient.

linkkiMinistry of Social Affairs and Health:
Treatment guaranteeFinnish | Swedish

Other rights

The patient has the right to:

  • good quality care
  • be treated well by the staff: the patient’s human dignity, convictions and privacy must be respected
  • his/her language and culture being taken into account as far as possible
  • be asked for his/her permission whenever possible before a treatment is begun
  • information about his/her state of health, scope of treatment, risk factors and alternatives to the treatment
  • check his/her own details in patient reports and to correct them, when necessary
  • know when he/she will receive treatment if there is a waiting list
  • refuse treatment
  • make a complaint to the institution, if he/she is dissatisfied
  • receive help from a patient ombudsman (potilasasiamies) when necessary

The opinion of a child patient will be taken into account if the child is sufficiently mature to express an opinion. A doctor or another professional will make this assessment. A child’s parents or guardians cannot refuse treatment if an underage child needs it.

Equality in health services

According to the Finnish Constitution, all people are equal in the eyes of the law. Without acceptable grounds, nobody can be placed in a different position based on their gender, age, origin, language, religion, beliefs, opinions, health, disability or other personal reason.

The Non-Discrimination Act is also in force in Finland. The Act is applied to discrimination on the basis of origin in public and private social and health services, for example. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and the National Discrimination and Equality Tribunal ensure that nobody is discriminated against because of his or her ethnic background.

All health service clients have the right to equal treatment without discrimination. If you are not entitled to use public health services, you have the right to equal treatment in private health services.

Discrimination and unfair treatment in health services

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly within health services, please contact the patient ombudsman (potilasasiamies). The help of the patient ombudsman is offered in all the places where health services are provided, for example at health centres, in hospitals, at private clinics, in homes for the elderly and institutions for the disabled. The services of a patient ombudsman are free. Ask for the contact information of the patient ombudsman responsible in the unit where you have been treated.

A patient ombudsman helps to resolve disputes and advises and assists if you want to make a complaint or apply for compensation for injury received during treatment. The ombudsman also informs patients about their rights and promotes their implementation.

If you suspect that you have been discriminated against in public or private health services due to your ethnic background, please don’t hesitate to contact the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman (yhdenvertaisuusvaltuutettu).

linkkiMinistry of Social Affairs and Health:
Patient ombudsmanFinnish | Swedish | English | Russian

linkkiNon-Discrimination Ombudsman:
Help for victims of discriminationFinnish | Swedish | English | Russian | Estonian | French | Somali | Spanish | Turkish | Chinese | Persian | Arabic | Kurdish | Albanian | German | Thai | Vietnamese | Portuguese | Tagalog | Polish

Interpreter services

You have the right to be served in Finnish and Swedish in health services. If you do not speak either of these languages, it is possible to receive interpreter services in very many different languages in Finland. In some situations, the authorities can book you an interpreter and pay for it, but this is not always possible. Ask your local authority about this beforehand.

Interpretation can also be arranged over the phone. The interpreter must be an adult and therefore you cannot use your own child as interpreter, if he or she is a minor.

For more information, go to the Infopankki web page Do you need an interpreter?.

Patient associations

There are many patient associations in Finland that offer information and advice for people with a specific illness. You can also find peer support through these associations.

linkkiSuomen potilasliitto:
Contact information for patient associationsFinnish