National health waiting lists in Spain

In response to public outcry over the deaths of some patients waiting for surgery, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has announced a comprehensive drive to cut waiting lists for surgery in Spain's national health system, reports the British Medical Journal.

Extra evening surgery sessions will be added at a number of public hospitals, and in cases where waiting lists are especially long, patients will receive their operations in the private sector, paid for by the state.

  • According to recent data from the national health service, which covers about half the country's population, waiting lists for surgical procedures were reduced by an average of 20 percent (from 190,000 to 151,000 patients) between July 1996 and March 2000.

  • The number of patients waiting more than six months for an operation decreased by 96 percent during this period (from 53,822 to 1,908 patients).

  • And the average waiting time fell from 210 days to 61 days, with an overall reduction of 70 percent.

    Celia Villalobos, the new minister of health, said that the plan would be funded by "the savings generated by the increasing number of approved generic drugs, which are considerably cheaper than trade compounds."

    Source: Xavier Bosch, Surgeons work evenings to cut Spanish waiting lists, British Medical Journal, June 10, 2000.

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