The 2023 municipal speech:

“My faith in all of you is formidable”

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The Minister of Health and Care Services, Ingvild Kjerkol, held her annual municipal speech today, in which she shared her expectations of the municipal health and care services for 2023.

In keeping with tradition, the speech was held at the national healthcare conference ( (in Norwegian) arranged by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Ministry of Health and Care Services.

The Minister used the opportunity to praise the country’s municipalities for their competence, knowledge and determination to provide good health and care services in such a demanding time.

“It is the municipal healthcare services that are there for us throughout our lives, protecting us through the different phases of life. My faith in all of you is formidable. You have shown a unique ability to mobilise when you are needed. Both during the pandemic, and now, as you help refugees to settle into the country. You have proved that you are the foundation of our common welfare society,” Kjerkol stated.

Reduced scope for action

Kjerkol acknowledged the demanding economic situation the municipalities face this year, and that the scope for action in 2023 has been significantly reduced as a result of cost increases and tighter budgets.

“I know that this makes it difficult for you to plan ahead. Increasing interest rates are also impacting the finances of our common healthcare services,” she said.

“We are well aware of this, and has been particularly noted across the sector. Not only do you have a variety of different challenges within the municipalities. But you also have different finances, demographics, geography and recruitment challenges.”

Local knowledge and competence

Despite this, the Minister highlighted important common denominators among the country’s municipalities, and the importance of prioritisation.

“The most important things are equality across municipal borders. Responsibility, local knowledge and competence. And a burning desire to deliver good health and care services for the entire population,” the Minister said.

“We must use that strength to move forward in the difficult time we find ourselves in. At the dawn of this new year full of significant uncertainties, we must not just do things correctly, we must also do the correct things.”

Three priorities

Kjerkol further underlined the importance of good prioritisation, and pointed to the government’s three top priorities that the municipal health and care services should focus on in 2023.

“In order for the municipalities to be able to offer good health and care services, the state must provide guidance. In a time where we can’t do everything, the government has thus prioritised the regular GP scheme, mental health and addiction, and a safe, active old age,” stated Kjerkol.

Holistic elderly care for the future

The Minister was clear that the debates of the last few weeks around care for the elderly have shown that more measures need to be taken both locally and nationally.

“A solid elderly care system is just as important to me as it is for those of you governing the country’s municipalities. The stories that have come out over the last few weeks confirm that the quality of elderly care is not equal across the board,” the Minister of Health and Care Services said. 

Working toward an equal service

She noted that the stories had impacted her greatly, and that she shares the dedication to take action and provide good care for the elderly across the country.

“We will work together with the municipalities, those working in the sector, and the service users and relatives in order to ensure an equal service. The municipalities hold the responsibility on the ground, and in those places where the service being provided to the elderly is not currently good enough, this issue must be dealt with,” Kjerkol urged.

“At the same time, I will ensure that the state contributes to this commitment such that we, together, can achieve the goals of providing a safe and positive old age. For this is important team work.”

Taking action on the Safe-at-Home reform

The government will be putting forward its Safe-at-Home reform (in Norwegian) before the summer. The reform will pinpoint several measures that will give the municipalities better tools to ensure that they can provide good elderly care. An important backdrop for the reform is that by 2030, there will be more elderly in Norway than there will be children.

“The goal is to ensure that it is both safe and a good option to live at home. At the same time, the care receiver’s relatives must also be certain that society will provide adequate services and support. Those who require 24/7 care will either receive this in their own home or in an institution. The requirements for this have been actualised over the last week”, Kjerkol noted.

She pointed to four of the main pillars of the government’s Safe-at-Home reform.

  • Competent staff who have the time to perform their duties,
  • an active local community that focuses on activities and preventing loneliness,
  • the opportunity to live safely in one’s own home for longer, and
  • the security and support of relatives.

Prevention in schools and health stations

The Minister highlighted the health station and school healthcare service as an important arena for prevention measures, as a service that comes into contact with everyone in this early phase of life.

“More children and young people are reporting mental health issues. We must therefore do more to prevent the issue, and do better. We must ensure that young people have easy access to low threshold services. That way, we can detect the problem early and provide help quickly,” Kjerkol said.

“The health station and school healthcare service is the first point of contact for all children and families. They provide the groundwork for this preventative work, where the first links in our collective healthcare service come together.”

Strengthening low threshold services

Kjerkol highlighted how more children and young people are reporting issues relating to their mental health, and that the government’s prioritisation of this is vital.

“This is why we have prioritised NOK 150 million in this year’s budget to strengthen the low threshold service for mental health and addiction across the municipalities. In addition to the NOK 150 million, we will also increase inpatient treatment in hospitals for children, young people and adults,” the Minister said. 

“We take care of those who need our collective healthcare service the most,” she added.

Historic focus on the GP service

Kjerkol also addressed one of the government’s most important objectives – that of ensuring that everyone has a GP they can go to. She emphasised the need to go back to basics on this issue, and think anew.

“We are strengthening the regular GP scheme with an unprecedented focus, and the full-year effect comes to just under NOK 1 billion. We will also be introducing a basic supplement. This means that GPs will have patient lists that make the work more manageable, making it easier to combine work with a good family life, thus ensuring that they can have more time with patients who need the service most,” the Minister said. 

“The municipalities will also be given more scope for action to offer doctors more attractive schemes that can be adapted to each municipality. It is the cash from our common piggy bank that prevents the size of someone’s wallet giving them faster and better healthcare than their neighbour.”