Hospitals and specialised medical care

Specialised healthcare services are organised mainly in hospitals and their outpatient clinics. These services also include examinations and treatments in different specialised fields. Access to specialised healthcare is realised by staggering treatment according to certain criteria, and it usually requires a referral.

The majority of the hospitals in Finland are public, i.e. owned by wellbeing services counties. University hospitals and central hospitals are responsible for the most demanding medical operations.

Furthermore, there are regional hospitals and local hospitals, such as city hospitals, in Finland. Health centre inpatient wards may also be called hospitals. Private hospitals supplement the public services, for example, by providing day surgeries.

Provisions on the operations of hospitals are laid down by law

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for the general planning and law drafting related to specialised healthcare, and for the support, guidance and strategic development of the implementation of the relevant legislation.

Provisions on the operations of hospitals are laid down in the Health Care Act.

Provisions on the operational arrangements of hospitals are laid down in the Act on Organising Healthcare and Social Welfare Services.

  • Act on Organising Healthcare and Social Welfare Services (in Finnish)

One of the objectives of the Government Programme is to improve the smooth operation of care chains by improving cooperation between primary healthcare, specialised healthcare, occupational healthcare and social services.

Wellbeing services counties are responsible for organising hospital services

The wellbeing services counties see to it that county residents receive the necessary specialised healthcare. Each wellbeing services county has either a university or central hospital. The HUS Group, which is the joint authority for Helsinki and Uusimaa, is responsible for organising specialised healthcare and maintaining hospitals in Uusimaa. The wellbeing services counties may also have other hospitals.

Each wellbeing services county belongs to one of the five collaborative areas. Each area has one university hospital, which provides highly specialised healthcare.  

The provision of certain treatments and operations is centralised on the national level to the university hospitals. Further provisions on the organisation and centralisation of highly specialised healthcare are laid down by decree.

Access to treatment at hospitals

First aid and urgent care are provided at hospitals for everyone in need of care irrespective of their place of residence.

To receive non-urgent specialised healthcare, patients must have a referral issued, for example, by a general practitioner at the health centre or an occupational health physician. Access to specialised healthcare must be arranged within a specified period of time.

Patients in need of specialised healthcare services may choose the treatment facility with the referring physician or dentist.

Authorities' responsibilities in the operations of hospitals

The Regional State Administrative Agencies and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) monitor the operations of hospitals.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is the expert agency for specialised healthcare. It also collects statistics on the services provided at hospitals.

Further information

Sirkku Pikkujämsä, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Medical Affairs 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Clients and Services in Healthcare and Social Welfare / APO, Service System Unit / PAL Telephone:0295163014   Email Address: