The spanish health and transplant system: a source of pride and an example to the world
5/8/2019 |

​​​Spain is a country that is renowned for its solidarity. One in three Spanish people cooperate with an NGO and we are also one of the most receptive and welcoming societies for refugees. However, if there is a sector that clearly illustrates the responsible and generous nature of the Spanish it is certainly the area of organ donation and transplants. Spain is the undisputed world leader, backed up by one of the most efficient health systems in the world.​

In 2018 Spain beat the record for donations and transplants, the culmination of 27 consecutive years of leadership. In terms of total figures, there were 2,243 organ donations which allowed 5,314 transplants to be carried out, meaning there are 48 donors and a rate of 114 transplants per million of the population, the highest on the planet. 

This was confirmed by the National Transplant Organization (ONT) in its progress report for 2018 which stressed that, even with excellence as its point of departure, Spanish leadership in this field continues to grow. In just the last 5 years the ONT has increased the donation rate by 37%, the highest increase in its history which has meant an extra 6 new donors and 14.6 transplants every day.

For the time being, no other country comes close to Spain’s figures. The United States, the closest, has a rate of 31.7 donors per million of population; France is 29.7; Ireland is 20.8; the UK is 22,5; Italy is 28.9; and Germany 9.7. Spain has actually doubled the European average, 22.3 donors per million inhabitants.  


A byword for health worldwide

Thanks to this culture increasingly geared towards showing solidarity, in 2018 it was managed to reduce waiting lists for transplants for all organs, except for hearts and intestines, according to data from the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Wellbeing and the ONT. 

Despite the excellent data, Spain continues to look for new ways that allow groups with special needs to access transplants. This is the case for children, where infant mortality is very low and between 120 and 130 paediatric transplants are performed each year. In this area, the implementation of a child heart transplant program called AB0 Incompatible, that is best suited to children under 12 months, made it possible to perform 4 transplants last year. In addition, the first international crossover kidney transplant from southern Europe was carried out in collaboration with Italy; and Spain has led the way looking for a resolution against organ trafficking together with the United Nations. 

This data would not be possible without a solid healthcare system with great professionals like the Spanish system. According to the report Health-Efficiency Index for 2018 by Bloomberg, Spain has the most efficient healthcare in Europe and the third most efficient in the world, only surpassed by Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Spanish primary care is the highest rated aspect, referring both to public resources, specialised general practitioners and nursing staff who provide preventive services and treat acute and chronic illnesses. In turn, the report Healthcare Access and Quality Index published by The Lancet in 2018, ranks Spain 19th out of 195 countries in terms of health access and care. This is a study which measures the quality of the healthcare system worldwide, comparing the mortality rates of 32 curable diseases and awarding a score from 0 a 100 depending on the adequacy of the medical care. Spain obtained 92 points, the same score as New Zealand, Denmark, Germany and France in a ranking led by Iceland and Norway with 97 points. 

The soundness of the Spanish health system is reinforced in the study Spain Health System Review, drawn up by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies which highlights that since 2010 national public health endeavours have focused on the development of regulatory provisions aimed at tackling factors which are decisive for health, such as the smoking law, campaigns to promote nutrition and physical activity and the improvement of coordination mechanisms between the 17 health authorities and the National Health Management Institute (INGESA) in terms of the surveillance and control of epidemics. 

The strength of the healthcare system, along with an excellent quality of life, is the reasons why Spain has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. To date it has the highest in the European Union and the third highest in the world, only behind Japan and Switzerland, with an average of 83.1 years old according to the World Health Organisation. A dynamic which is set to improve according to a study carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington, which reveals that Spain will have the highest life expectancy in the world in 2040, around 86 years old on average. 

Basically, Spanish society enjoys good health: not only in terms of healthcare, but in terms of its capacity for solidarity and social responsibility, making it an international benchmark. It is the duty of us all to maintain and work towards improving this leadership.