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Ciência & Saúde Coletiva

On-line version ISSN 1678-4561Print version ISSN 1413-8123


CONILL, Eleonor Minho; GIOVANELLA, Lígia  and  ALMEIDA, Patty Fidelis de. Waiting lists in public systems: from expanding supply to timely access? Reflections on Spain's National Health System. Ciênc. saúde coletiva [online]. 2011, vol.16, n.6, pp.2783-2794. ISSN 1678-4561.

The paper discusses the issue of waiting times based on a study of Spain's National Health System (Sistema Nacional de Salud, SNS), focusing on the national context, management issues and local practices. Observation visits and interviews with health personnel and managers conducted in the metropolitan areas of the Autonomous Communities of Madrid, Andalusia, Catalonia and Basque Country were complemented by secondary data and a review of the literature. There is unanimity as to the positive results of the SNS, but cutting waiting times seems to be one key aspect requiring improvement. Two directions were identified for complementary measures: guaranteed maximum waiting times in the macro-social sphere associated with local measures to increase service integration and primary care resolution rates. The peculiarities of the Spanish decentralisation process and the existence of economic, political and health profession corporate interests were mentioned as factors hampering waiting list regulation, transparency and management. A comprehensive approach to this issue shows the need to shift discussion from waiting list monitoring and/or expanded supply to guaranteed timely access. That is the quality differential that primary care-oriented systems must bring to public health systems.

Keywords : Waiting lists; Access; National Health System; Spain.

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