Questions and answers: What does care guarantee mean?
The FSHS is required to contact students within the same working day on which they have left a contact request. The need for treatment must be assessed within three working days. But what does the care guarantee legislation say about the time limits for starting non-urgent care? When can it be considered that the care guarantee requirements are, or are not, being met? Read our experts’ answers to these questions.
Frequently asked questions
How quickly should students’ care be started under the care guarantee requirements?
- In student healthcare, non-urgent care should be started within three months of the assessment of the need for treatment in the case of general and mental health and within six months of the assessment in the case of oral health.
- In practice, the care guarantee starts with the first care contact. At the FSHS, care often begins when a specially appointed team contacts the student. Students may be contacted by a public health nurse, psychiatric nurse, physiotherapist or general practitioner, for example. They will put together a preliminary treatment plan with the student.
What is the purpose of a treatment plan?
- The purpose of a treatment plan is to assess, together with the patient, what the goal of treatment is, which professionals should be responsible for the treatment and whether appointments or diagnostics, such as laboratory tests or imaging, are needed. Symptom questionnaires or other forms may also be sent to students for completion.
- It is important to find out the student’s own goal: what kind of help they wish to get or what kind of treatment results they wish to achieve. This goal will be recorded in the treatment plan as agreed with the student.
Is further care covered by the care guarantee?
- Visits following the first contact will be covered by the treatment plan. They do not fall within the scope of current care guarantee legislation. However, a delay in providing care must not pose a hazard to health. Therefore, specially appointed teams will assess how quickly treatment must be provided.
- In an ideal situation, demand and supply for care meet and students receive the care they need quickly. Lately, students have unfortunately had to wait for further appointments due to congestion. However, students must be informed when further care is to be provided and who they can contact if needed.
What kind of schedule is there to tighten the terms of the care guarantee?
- From 1st of November 2024, the care guarantee time limit will be changed to seven days in the case of general and mental health and to three months in the case of oral health. During the transition period from 1st of September 2023 to 1st of November 2024, the care guarantee time limit will be 14 days for general and mental health and four months for oral health.
- If a public health nurse or other professional states that a patient needs to see a general practitioner, this kind of further care has to also be provided within seven days.
- Correspondingly, if following the assessment of the need for treatment the patient has first been referred to an oral health professional other than a dentist (e.g. an oral hygienist) and they consider an appointment with a dentist to be necessary, care by a dentist has to be provided within four weeks.
How well are the care guarantee requirements met at the FSHS?
- At the FSHS, actual care guarantee breaches are very rare. We monitor compliance with the care guarantee very closely and investigate the reasons for any delays on a monthly basis. We observe the number of incoming calls and service percentage on a daily basis.
- The reason for delays in fixing appointments has often been that the appointments offered have not been convenient for the students themselves. In some cases, delays in providing care have been due to the FSHS. For example, service units may have been lacking a public health nurse or a psychiatric nurse due to recruitment difficulties. In such cases, the start of care may have been postponed for over three months.
Why is the care guarantee easily interpreted in such different ways?
- Students may be confused because we have changed our service model to comply with our newly expanded activities and prepared for the tightening of the care guarantee requirements. Our current model includes the phone call that marks the start of care. This may feel strange to those used to having healthcare appointments.
- Interpretations may also differ because further care does not fall within the scope of the care guarantee. Care does not have to be completed within the care guarantee time; it is sufficient that care begins within the set time limits.
Which services have the longest waiting times at the moment?
- The biggest problem is the great demand for mental health services. Even when the phone call marking the start of care is arranged quickly, there will be a wait for appointments. As a result, you may feel you have to wait even though the care guarantee requirements have technically been met.
- We make every effort to provide care for students with the most urgent symptoms as quickly as possible.
- It is not ideal when students have to wait for further care. We cannot meet the demand with our current resources but we are doing everything we can to address the situation. In the case of mental health services, single visits are not usually enough.
Where can I get information about implementation of the care guarantee at the FSHS?
- All service providers must provide information about the care guarantee on their websites and through their own channels. This includes the FSHS.
Who decides whether the care guarantee requirements have been met? For example, if the FSHS considers the care guarantee requirements have been met but a student disagrees?
- If a student disagrees with us they should, in the first instance, submit an objection to us.
- The Act on the Status and Rights of Patients sets out the measures patients can take regarding the treatment or handling they have received. An objection is the least severe. It is a written notification for which a written reply is required from us. If necessary, students can obtain support from the patient ombudsman of the FSHS.
- If the student is not satisfied with this, they can file a complaint to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), which will issue a decision on the matter.
- The Parliamentary Ombudsman may also investigate whether organisations have complied with the law.
Updated 17 January 2023