The Italian National Health Service was established on December 23rd 1978 end approved by 85% of the Parliament (L.833/78). The NHS is founded on the principles of universal coverage, social financing through the use of general taxation and non-discriminatory access to the health care services.

From this Act onward, the history of public health is solidly integrated with the Constitution of our country, with its civil and democratic growth and its economic and social development. This pathway included the creation of the system based on “healthcare trusts” in order to foster efficiency and managerial skills, ensuring provision of healthcare basket benefits (so called LEA)  homogenously within the national territory.

The Italian National Health Service is embodied of fundamental  values and of considerable strengths recognized over the years by various international bodies such as the World Health Organization and the OECD.


High quality healthcare for all Italians

The  Italian National Health Service guarantees the right to health to all Italians, without discrimination based on income, gender or other social status factors. It delivers high-quality health care to all citizens requiring hospital admissions, emergency care, the services of general practitioners and pediatricians. It is also guaranteed vast drug coverage paid by the NHS and all hospital and diagnostics services essential to health.

Universality, equity, solidarity

These are the three guiding principles of our National Health Service which provide uniformity  of levels of care throughout the country, equity of access to healthcare services for all citizens and fiscal solidarity which is a fundamental form of financing for the system. This means equal collectability of all services included in the healthcare basket benefits (LEA i.e. Essential Levels of Care) in all Italian regions.

It is an extraordinary achievement of civilization and represents  an indisputable sign of high social and democratic development for a Country. There are few countries in the world to ensure this type of health care for all citizens, without any discrimination.

At the first ranks in the world for healthy life expectancy

Italy is the second country among OECD countries in terms of longevity, with a life expectancy of 82.7 years, such as Japan. Only Swiss citizens have a higher life expectancy which reaches 82.8 years. However, the life expectancy exceeds 80 years in the vast majority of OECD countries (average 80.1 years). Almost everywhere, including Italy, the women are doing better:  in fact their life expectancy reaches almost 85 while the one of Italian men does  not even reach the age of 80. (Source: OECD, 2013)

Life expectancy among the best in Europe

On average in the EU, healthy life expectancy (defined as years of life in which there are no activity limitations, physical or cognitive) in 2008-2010 stood at 62.2 years for women and 61 years for men. In Italy, the number of years of healthy life was similar for both men and women, being around the age of 62.

Leader in Europe for the number of free drugs

The pharmaceutical handbook of medicines, paid by the public health service, is the most complete in Europe: in fact, the Italian National Health provides citizens with all medications for the treatment of serious and chronic diseases including the latest generation of innovative medicines. 76% of the national pharmaceutical expenditure is paid by the Italian National Health and only medicinal products for the treatment of minor disorders are charged to citizens.

The excellence in transplants

We can state we have one of the best national networks for executing  organ transplants in Europe with particular regard to the quality of interventions, management of databases on donors and the availability of organs.

The pediatrician free for all children

We are the only country in Europe to ensure the possibility to choose a pediatrician with no charge to families for all children of age 0 to 14.

Front runners in high-tech diagnostic

We are among the countries,  in Europe, with the highest number of CT and MRI equipment per millions of inhabitants.

 Decreasing hospital infections

We have the lowest rate in Europe of nosocomial infections in neonatal intensive care units.

Healthcare quality and safety standards

Provision of healthcare services to all citizens according to safety and quality requirements is ensured by definition of national criteria and standards, which are part of regional accreditation systems, so to make healthcare structures characterised by resources, competencies and organization adequate to provide healthcare activities. Therefore, accreditation is the necessary requirement for a healthcare structure to be an accountable provider  of the National Health Service, ensuring equity of conditions among public and private providers, protecting right of choosing the healthcare structure by each citizen and allowing equity of tariffs and equity in remuneration of suppliers.

The development of the National Health Service implied a revision of regulations on accreditation, aimed at making regional systems more homogenous and responsive to the increasing demand for an objective methodology to evaluate healthcare services on the bases of quality standards. Eight criteria were identified, to be included within the regional regulations and to be evaluated homogenously across the national territory. These criteria cover various domains such as structures’ management systems, services, structural requirements, personnel competencies, communication, clinical appropriateness and safety of patients, improvement and innovation processes, and humanization.

Prevention. To be healthy and avoid illness

We can claim to be in the vanguard for prevention activities with more than 150 public departments with over 10 thousand workers dedicated to prevention.

In Europe, we are the Country with one among the highest levels of coverage for the main vaccinations and we are the first  for vaccination of elderly against influenza. We were the first in Europe to make the new Human Papilloma Virus vaccination against cervical cancer available, free of charge, to girls aged 12 years.


Data di pubblicazione: 4 aprile 2014, ultimo aggiornamento 4 aprile 2014

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