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ARE THE TORIES OBSESSED WITH SWEDEN?

21-10-2008

Dr David Nicholl and David Cameron

Tory leader David Cameron has been eulogizing Sweden again – not least its health system. Dr David Nicholl examines whether a Scandinavian-style tax regime would lead to a healthier society.

When I was preparing for my Panorama interview with David Cameron, it was apparent that the Tory leader loves Sweden. Not just about the NHS, where Cameron wants the NHS to be aiming for the enviable cancer survival rates, which are the best in Europe, but also in other areas, such as education, the Tories are keen to replicate a Swedish model.

In Monday’s Today programme, Cameron repeated his interest in all things Swedish.

So what have the Swedes got that we haven’t? Although Cameron has been to Sweden, sadly the Stirrer was unable to fork out for any expenses for me to visit.

The next best thing was to speak to a number of Swedish doctors to see what their take on health was. One of my colleagues is a Swedish neurosurgeon and I also took the opportunity last month to speak to doctors in Sweden.

Sweden has long had a legendary healthcare system with low infant mortality rates, excellent cancer survival rates and one of longest life expectancy rates. In short, Sweden sounds like healthcare heaven.

Sadly, my Swedish colleagues had a different story. The income tax rates are amongst the highest rates in the World, the top rate having only recently fallen to 57% (they were 80% at one point!).

The big debate in Swedish politics is to how they can replicate the NHS as it is “so cheap” by comparison with Sweden. Is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence, or perhaps that should read, the sheets are always whiter on the other side of the Europe, so to speak?

One of the biggest problems in Swedish hospitals are the long waiting times to wait to see a specialist. Apparently this is a major problem in the autumn. Why? As the income tax rates are so high, many Swedish consultants take unpaid leave to go moose hunting.

Hockey-mom Sarah Palin would be proud of them.

HAS SWEDEN GOT ANYTHING TO TEACH US? LEAVE A COMMENT ON THE STIRRER FORUM
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