The international audit of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has been completed: the panel proposes strategic-level specifications to the Institute’s duties, steering and cooperation structures
A panel of international experts convened by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health began its audit of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in August 2022 and submitted its report to Permanent Secretary Veli-Mikko Niemi on 17 March 2023. The previous international audit of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare took place in 2013–2014.
The panel was tasked with assessing the performance of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and providing future-oriented recommendations regarding the Institute, particularly from the perspectives of promoting the wellbeing of the population and supporting informed decision-making. The panel comprised six international members and two Finnish members, who participated in the audit as independent experts. The panellists familiarised themselves with the operations of the Institute during visits, interviewed experts and stakeholder representatives, and reviewed material concerning the Institute’s operations, finances and outputs.
The report praises the Institute’s performance of its duties, which have grown over the years to become very extensive. The COVID-19 crisis, for example, further underscored the need to clarify the Institute’s role as an expert institute. The new duties that support the implementation of the reform of healthcare, social welfare and rescue services also require a critical assessment of the Institute’s current state and operations.
The panel provides the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare with strategic-level recommendations concerning the Institute’s primary duties, the steering of its operations and the transparency of its funding. The proposals are aimed at securing the Institute’s position as a key national expert institute and a respected international operator.
Focus on clarifying roles and competence needs, and strengthening cooperation
According to the report, the steering of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s operations should be clarified and strengthened by prioritising the production of information to support decision-making at various levels, as well as research and expert support. Adequate budgetary funding should be ensured for these functions. The panel finds that, in addition to the aforementioned functions, the Institute can carry out more in-depth academic research funded by sources selected through tendering processes.
The practical measures proposed by the report include a new type of performance agreement between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare that would be more binding and financially transparent, as well as strengthening the role of the Council of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and stakeholder representation. The panel considers it necessary to focus more heavily on modern data analytics and cooperation with data producers. The report also recommends that the central government’s health and social services should be gradually transferred to the wellbeing services counties.
While many of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s duties are closely linked to national political decision-making, ensuring the quality of scientific research, independence and international networks is the primary reputation factor. When the Institute participates in various cooperation projects, it is important to ensure that the Institute’s independence as a key evaluator of the achievement of the goals of the health and social services reform and the operations of the wellbeing services counties is not compromised.
The report also calls attention to improving interaction between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ensuring the Institute’s access to the competencies it will require in the future, and the need for reform with regard to its duties as a statistical authority. Due to the strategic nature of the recommendations, the panel proposes that the key recommendations presented in the report should be explored in follow-up projects, particularly with respect to the regulatory provisions that govern the Institute’s operations and the development needs concerning information management.
The panel’s English-language report will be published after its technical finalisation in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s series “Reports and memorandums” (stm.fi/en/publications).
Niina Kiviaho, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected] (from 20 March)
Pasi Pohjola, Director of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Markku Tervahauta, Director-General, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected]
Maris Jesse, Chair of the Panel, [email protected]
Patrick Jeurissen, Chair of the Panel, [email protected] (in English)