The unlikely saviour: Portugal's National Health System and the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


What is the impact of COVID-19 on Portugal's Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), the country's national health service? The story, still unfolding, has all the elements of a recipe for disaster: one of the most elderly populations in the world; a weakened SNS, the result of a litany of policies and interventions by the 'Troika' (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund); a health care delivery system focused on non-communicable diseases and long-term care; the growing public distrust in public services, compared to private, hotel-like health care facilities. We are aware that these are still the early days of the epidemic, yet it is safe to say that algorithmic scenarios of doom and gloom have so far been averted. In the past six months of the pandemic, the level of trust of the Portuguese population in the SNS and its health personnel has significantly improved, while the government has started to provide additional funding and to work for the expansion of the public system. At the very inception of the pandemic, private hospitals practically closed their doors to COVID-19 patients. Unexpectedly a new disease, COVID-19, by definition the foe of any health system, has granted the opportunity for a rare consensus amongst different key political and/or corporate actors in a long-called-for reform of the SNS. Social science and humanities, with their analytical tools and theoretical-conceptual frameworks, are mandatory in providing well-funded answers to such riddles and better grasping the reasons for the twist and turns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020


  • Trust
  • Social sciences
  • COVID-19
  • National health service
  • Community
  • Portugal


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