The county councils and regions are responsible for ensuring that everyone living in Sweden has access to good healthcare.
Healthcare is largely tax-financed in order to guarantee that people have access to the same high level of care regardless of where they live.
The principle of local self-government gives the county councils and regions the right to design and structure their activities on the basis of local conditions. This means that patient fees may vary. On average, patient fees account for 3 per cent of the overall revenues of county councils and regions.
Primary care for everyone with health problems
There are over 1,000 local medical centres, doctors' surgeries and district nursing clinics throughout the country. Together, these form the primary care structure, which is the foundation of the Swedish healthcare system.
At local medical centres, patients can be treated for all the health problems that do not require the technical and medical resources of a hospital. Preventive health work is an extremely important element of primary care.
This is carried out, for example, at maternity and child healthcare centres where expectant mothers and preschool children are regularly offered free health checks as well as advice and support.
County and regional healthcare
Sweden has more than 70 hospitals at county level and 9 regional/university hospitals. The most advanced technical equipment is only available at these hospitals and highly-specialised care has been concentrated here.
Healthcare guarantee and free choice of care institution
A national healthcare guarantee imposes limits on how long patients have to wait to visit a doctor and receive treatment. This is facilitated by the fact that patients are free to choose the care institution in which they want to receive care, even if this institution is in another county or region.
Each county council/region plans all publicly subsidized dental care in its own area, regardless of whether this care is provided in the public or private sector.
The main task of the Public Dental Service is to offer preventive care. Children and young people aged 3 to 19 receive free dental treatment. Adults pay a significant portion of their dental costs themselves.
In most counties, public transport is run by the county council or region, often together with the municipalities.
This is done either through jointly owned companies or through contractors. The county councils/regions support business and industry in their area and encourage new enterprise. They are also responsible for areas such as tourism and culture.
Nurses form the largest occupational group
In 2005, approximately 250,000 people worked for the county councils/regions, which makes them one of the largest employers in Sweden.
Nurses form the largest occupational group, followed by assistant nurses, doctors and administrative staff.