It is often assumed that there is a wide gap between eastern and western Europe, not just geographically, but also when it comes to the state of their healthcare systems.
Slovakia, Poland and Hungary all emerged from the yoke of communism with state-run, state-funded systems that were highly bureaucratic, mismanaged and often corrupt. Many citizens could only get access to healthcare by bribing physicians - and some still do today. The systems were also largely underfunded, especially in comparison with other EU nations. But how have these countries fared since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what do their attitudes tell us about the prospects for reform today?
Poles Apart? sets out to examine whether this perception is really true by asking the opinions of 3,000 central and eastern Europeans and comparing them with their counterparts in the rest of the EU.
Despite differences in access to care, due to significantly lower levels of funding, and a sometimes unfounded admiration of western Europe, the challenges facing healthcare systems and the way people view them are remarkably similar across borders. More striking still, the new Europe's attitude suggests that the east is on the cusp of providing valuable inspiration and experience for reformers in western Europe in shaping the modern health systems of tomorrow.
"The new EU member state from central and eastern Europe covered in this report (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) seem to be a rather compact group measured by history and GDP per capita. Patients and physicians in these countries are historically used to living with the communist model of highly centralised national health systems, where many new treatments and medicines, and even some old ones, were rationed."