Healthcare in Spain


Healthcare-SpainSpain has a deserved reputation as one of the healthiest countries in the world to live in, due to its friendly climate and superb Mediterranean diet. This good start is backed up by one of the world’s most efficient and successful public health care systems. Let’s hope that this article is superfluous to your needs anyway!

The public health system is run on individual manner by the autonomous regions so in Andalucia we have the SAS (Servicio Andaluz de Salud). Most towns and villages have a Centro de Salud (health centre) which is backed up by hospitals in the bigger towns e.g. The Costa del Sol Hospital just outside Marbella.

The health centres in larger villages and towns are open 24 hours a day and often have x-ray facilities so one does not have to make a trek to the nearest hospital. They all run an appointment system for your GP (medico de cabeccera) and accident and emergency cover as well. Normal clinics such as ANC and physiotherapy take place regularly.

To use the SAS you will need the appropriate paperwork. No surprises there then! If you are working legally in Spain you will be paying your contributions to the Social Security (Social Seguridad) and will be sent your health card automatically and details of your health centre and GP. You can also include dependent members of your family on your cover (children, spouses and sometimes other family members). They will receive their own cards and number too.

The health cards are very up to date and can be used in machines to book appointments with specialists and check up on your social security payments etc. Free dental care for children up to a certain age is included in the cover.

If you are in Spain for a short holiday you will need to bring your E111 with you. This entitles you to free emergency cover at any public hospital or health centre. If you come over regularly for short periods and don’t wish to become a resident this is the form for you and is available from Post Offices in the UK. You cannot use it in private clinics or hospitals nor for ongoing illnesses or conditions.

If you decide to become a permanent resident in Spain and are not working e.g. you are retiring here, you will need the E 121. This needs to be taken to your local Centro de Salud where they will process it and send you your card and details of your doctor. For both the E 111 and E121 your home country needs to have an agreement with Spain and you obviously need to have contributed to your healthcare system there. The E106 (not another E!) provides you with cover for a maximum of 2 years if you are looking for work or taking early retirement. You don’t get a Spanish health card so you have to have it handy each time you need medical help.

However, if you decide not to use the public health system you will be spoilt for choice! The Costa del Sol has numerous private clinics covering all problems and illnesses and some very modern efficient private hospitals. Doctors of all nationalities and specialities are available. Private health insurance can be used to meet these bills. One final service in the private sector is the emergency helicopter scheme (Helicopteros Sanitarios) which can whisk you away by air to hospital if an emergency occurs.


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