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Thu 16 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Dutch top European health league

The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany have topped a European survey that ranked healthcare systems according to consumer value.

The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany have topped a European survey that ranked healthcare systems according to consumer value.

Britain, Hungary, Italy and Poland were at the bottom of the index that assessed patient rights and information, waiting times, access to medication, outcomes and friendliness.

"The Netherlands have a very nice combination of accessibility, openness and quality," said Arne Bjornberg of Health Consumer Powerhouse, which compiled the 2005 EuroHealth Consumer Index.

Sweden, which tied for 4th place with Estonia and Belgium, won on medical quality but fell short on accessibility and waiting times, according to the Brussels based company that provides information on healthcare in Europe.

"The three countries that come out on top share one common feature - they all have healthcare systems that for a very long time have been based on pluralistic solutions, meaning there is a large choice of insurance providers," said Bjornberg.

The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany have private and public healthcare, he added.

Estonia, like Poland and Hungary, spends a smaller percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) on healthcare than other countries included in the index but it ranked quite high.

"I think the explanation is rather simple. It is much easier to turn around a country of 1.5 million than to turn around a country of 40 million like Poland," said Bjornberg.

"But still the Estonian speed of reform has been quite impressive."

Britain, which scored 9th in the survey won praise for its healthcare information and was ranked good for dealing with heart problems. Overall, it was a mediocre performer.

Belgium excelled in accessibility but lost points on outcome quality, while France, which was described as technically efficient, did "not have fantastic outcome quality."

"In southern Europe, Spain and Italy do provide excellent healthcare services," according to the report.

But it added that real excellence seemed to be too dependent on consumers' ability to afford private healthcare.

The index, which ranked countries on a point system in the different categories, was compiled from a combination of public statistics and independent research by the company.

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