Public healthcare

The Finnish public healthcare system consists of primary healthcare, specialised medical care and highly specialised medical care services. The municipalities are responsible for providing both primary healthcare and specialised medical care for the residents of their area. Services must be provided in accordance with the population´s need.


Primary healthcare services are usually provided in the municipality´s health centre. A municipality can arrange primary healthcare services also in collaboration with another municipality, or it can procure the services from a private company or an organisation.

The health services that the municipality must provide are laid down separately in the relevant Act. The municipalities can, within the limits of legislation, determine the scope and content of services, and on how they will be provided. For this reason, there may be municipality-specific differences in services.

With regard the provision of specialised medical care, each municipality belongs to a hospital district and a catchment area for highly specialised medical care. Joint municipal authorities belong to a catchment area. Specialised medical care services are usually provided in hospitals maintained by the hospital districts.

The treatment of a patient is provided either in primary healthcare or specialised medical care depending on the level of care he or she requires. Patients cannot choose themselves on whether the treatment they require is provided in the primary healthcare or specialised medical care system. Patients can, however, choose the health centre responsible for treatment and the unit providing specialised medical care.

Health centres

Primary healthcare services are usually provided in the municipality´s health centre. Small municipalities often provide services together, in which case the nearest health centre may be located in the area of another municipality. There are approximately 160 health centres in Finland. Health centres generally have several units.

Health centres provide, among other things, the following healthcare services:

  • consultations with a doctor
  • consultations with a nurse
  • consultations with a physiotherapist
  • maternity and child health clinics
  • screenings and vaccinations
  • mental health services
  • laboratory and medical imaging examinations
  • Dental care
  • emergency care during office hours.

Contact your local health centre in the first instance if you fall ill suddenly. The health centre doctor will consult a specialist if necessary. He or she can refer you for treatment or examinations at a hospital. Health centres always treat urgent cases without delay. Emergency treatment during the evenings and at night are usually treated at the nearest hospital.

  • In emergencies call 112 or go directly to the hospital´s emergency care unit.
  • The contact information of on-call hospitals can also be found here.

Hospitals and specialised medical care

Specialised medical care usually refers to examinations and treatment carried out in a hospital by a specialist. Specialised medical care is usually provided in hospital outpatient clinics and wards.

With regard the provision of specialised medical care, each municipality belongs to a joint municipal authority administering a hospital district. In total, there are 20 hospital districts. The joint municipal authorities belong to five catchment areas for highly specialised medical care, which form around the University Hospitals of Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Oulu and Kuopio. The most demanding treatment is provided in these. In addition, Finland has regional hospitals and local hospitals in towns and cities.

The treatment of some demanding rare illnesses or diseases has been centralised nationally in one hospital or healthcare unit. The treatment of children with congenital heart diseases (Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH)), organ transplants (HUCH), severe burns (HUCH) and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (Turku University Central Hospital) are some examples.

Except for emergencies, a doctor´s referral is always required for access to specialised medical care.

  • The referral can be provided by a health centre doctor or a private healthcare physician if he or she considers that you require treatment provided in the specialised medical care system. In the case of non-emergency care, you can together with your doctor choose the hospital to which the referral will be sent.
  • A referral written in another EU country can be accepted if it includes the information needed to assess your treatment requirements. The referral should be written in Finnish or Swedish. The treatment provider can also accept a referral written in another language. If you seek treatment in Finland from another EU country, send the referral directly to the treatment provider. You must cover any translation costs yourself.
  • Your need for treatment and whether you will be accepted for treatment will be assessed by the specialised medical care unit on the basis of the referral. Your treatment need will be assessed within three weeks of receipt of the referral.

The contact information of hospitals and information about services they provide has been compiled in the online service Palveluvaaka.fi.