The importance of access to health services in order to overcome obstacles within the management of the Brazilian National Health System gave rise to the systematization of its advances, limitations, and challenges by means of scientific literature review. This study presents the main results of researches on access, having as its universe of analysis 5 Brazilian scientific journals on Collective Health, internationally indexed and available in the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO). The inclusion criteria were met by 25 articles involving qualitative researches and experience reports, written in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, published from 2002 to 2011. In the object field analysis, results show the notion of access related to the following categories: work processes; service network organization; health care system and model. Focused on assessing access conditions, the studies aim their criticism at aspects of system failure, and the service network organization is the main target of discussions, in the light of social representations of the subjects involved, particularly service users. Limitations, advances, and challenges are identified with an emphasis on the micro and meso management levels, i.e. within work processes and network organization, and the analysis of system rationale remains in the background, in spite of defining the health care model, which organizes access to services, as well as the answers to needs deriving from the social determinants of health, demographic and epidemiological transitions, and the role played by social control in the realization of the right to health.
Health Services Accessibility; Health Systems; Health Care (Public Health).