The Netherlands and Sweden: Quality Control
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Sweden has spent more than any other country in Europe on its public sector, at least until recently. Health care spending in 1987 stood at 8.6 per cent of GDP, although this had declined to 7.7 per cent by the mid 1990s according to the 1996 OECD Health Data (Kanavos and McKee, 1998:27). The Netherlands spent comparable proportions on health services: 8.1 per cent in 1987 rising to 8.8 per cent in 1995 (ibid.). By 1998, however, Sweden’s health expenditure at 8.4 per cent (European Observatory – Sweden 2001:25) was nearly at the same level it was in the 1980s. While the proportion spent on health services appears similar, the organisation of the funding of these two countries’ health systems is quite different. In terms of Esping-Andersen’s (1990) typology, The Netherlands is an example of Conservative Corporatism and Sweden represents an example of a Social Democratic welfare regime. Yet, as Pollitt and Bouckaert (2000:61) have observed, despite their differences, ‘[they] share a general disposition towards consensual, often meso-corporatist styles of governance’. This of itself would make the comparison of the two countries’ health systems and professional organisation interesting. But there are additional and possibly better reasons why they are particularly useful comparators with which to start this series of paired case studies (Chapters 3–6).