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Austerity cuts to Spanish healthcare system are 'putting lives at risk'
Date:6/13/2013

A series of austerity reforms made by the Spanish government could lead to the effective dismantling of large parts of the country's healthcare system, with potentially detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people, according to new research published in BMJ.

National budget cuts of 13.65% (365m) and regional budget cuts of up to 10% to health and social care services in 2012 have coincided with increased demands on the health system, particularly affecting the elderly, disabled and those with poor mental health. The authors, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also highlight the increase in depression, alcohol related disorders and suicides in Spain since the financial crisis hit and unemployment increased.

Spain already has one of the lowest public expenditures on healthcare for its GDP in the European Union. Further cuts of 1108m will be made to the dependency fund for elderly and disabled people in 2013, putting these vulnerable people even more at risk.

Key changes made by the Spanish government include excluding undocumented immigrants from accessing free healthcare services and increasing co-payments that patients must make for extra treatments such as drugs, prosthetics, and some ambulance trips. Authorities with devolved powers in 17 regions across Spain have also been required to make further cuts. In Madrid and Catalonia this has led to a move towards privatisation of hospitals, increases in waiting times, cutbacks in emergency services and fewer surgical procedures.

Lead author Dr Helena Legido-Quigley, Lecturer in Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Our analysis is the first to look at the overall impact of austerity measures in Spain on the healthcare system and the findings are of great concern. Many of the measures taken to save money do not have a strong evidence-base. We are seeing detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish p
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Contact: Katie Steels
Katie.Steels@lshtm.ac.uk
44-020-792-92802
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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