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The European Health Consumer Index 2016 has revealed that Ireland ranked poorly in terms of waiting lists and waiting times in Emergency Departments. The report examines 35 countries, ranking them against various criteria, and Ireland came in the 21st place, the same position as in 2015.

Ireland performed well in the decrease of cardiovascular disease deaths, deaths from strokes, infant deaths, improved cancer survival, and access to medicines. However, we were reported to have particularly poor emergency department waiting times, placing us in a similar position to the UK, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Greece.

The report indicates that the then Irish target of the wait for specialist appointments being no longer than 18-months would still place us as “the worst waiting time in Europe”.

Other areas Ireland fell down in include the right to a second opinion, online access to book appointments, direct consultant access, getting a planned operation within 90 days, and health system equity.

There was an obvious performance gap between the older and newer EU members. The highest placed country was The Netherlands, followed by Switzerland and Norway, while the worst ranked country was Romania.

On the matter of abortion, the report said that factoring in the need for judgement on whether a pregnancy could be a serious health hazard, including a suicide risk, is “a very minor step” towards abortion as a woman’s right.

The Netherlands use the ‘Beveridge’ healthcare system, financed through general taxation, instead of the social insurance systems that are known as Bismarck. Based on these findings, the report suggests that imitating more successful health systems would save European lives and money and advises the removal of “amateurs” and politicians from operative decision-making.

However, the report emphasised that it is an “academic exercise” and that country results should be treated with caution. This is because there could be information quality problems, owing to a lack of uniform procedures for the gathering of data. Running since 2005, the EHCI benchmarking reports have been published by the private Swedish firm.