Living In Spain - Healthcare

The Spanish Health Care System

Spain has a public health system so health care is free or low cost and compares very favourably with the UK. if you pay social security (families and retirees are also included). Like many countries, however, the public health service has waiting lists to see specialists and for non-urgent operations. (See E111 Below)

If you do not qualify for public health care then it is essential that you have private health insurance; you may not be allowed in the country without it. Even if you are under the public health care system it is still advisable (if you can afford) to have private health insurance in order to skip the waiting lists and receive treatment quickly. The most popular private health plans are Adeslas and Sanitas. These generally are excellent value for money.

Spanish Hospitals

Generally the larger towns have the best hospitals, which can be found by following signs with a big white 'H' or looking in the Yellow Pages under hospitals. When attending a hospital (except in the case of an emergency) you must present either a social security card, evidence of private health insurance or proof of ability to pay the bills. If the insurance company does not pay to the hospital directly then you should pay yourself (credit cards are generally accepted) and claim this from the insurance company at a later date.

Spanish Doctors

As is common in Europe, medical doctors receive their training as university undergraduates. With public health care, you will usually be assigned a general doctor where you live when issued your social security card. With insurance, you will be able to select a primary care doctor from those affiliated with your plan. There are a number of doctors in Spain who speak English, especially in cities and resort areas, including doctors who received their training in English speaking countries. Embassies and consulates usually maintain lists of such doctors.

Spanish Pharmacies

Many drugs, including antibiotics, that are available only with a prescription in other countries may be obtained directly from pharmacists in Spain without a prescription. For those drugs where a prescription is required, when given a prescription by a doctor you can pick up the drugs or medicines from a pharmacy which displays the sign of a green cross. Most pharmacies are open from 09:30 until 13:30 and from 16:30 until 20:00 from Monday to Saturday. Outside of those hours a notice will be posted of the nearest pharmacy open after 20:00. There are 24 hour pharmacies in all towns, which pharmacies are indicated by a red light on the pharmacy sign.

Are prescriptions free?

Most prescriptions for pensioners are free in Spain. However, prescriptions given by a hospital (authorization to purchase certain drugs) must be paid for at the pharmacy supplying the drugs and then money can then be reclaimed.

If you are not covered by social security and not entitled to free healthcare you will find that most drugs are cheaper than in the UK.

The Form E1-11

There is much contradictory information and advice on the internet as the lifespan of the form E111. It is a common misconception that the E111 form only lasts for one month or that you have to renew it after one year and then even this procedure can only be repeated once. These assumptions are all incorrect.

The same E111 form can be used continuously in an EEC country provided that you are 'officially' still living in your original country of origin or if the document is taken or you lose it.


The Form E106

Free Healthcare Based on UK Tax Contributions.

If do not pay Spanish social security through self-employed contributions or through your employer then you could still be entitled to free healthcare in Spain through your tax contributions in the UK.

If you paid either class one (if employed earning a minimum of 3,500) in the current tax year or class two (self employed at least fifty payments made during that tax year), both you and your spouse will be entitled to free healthcare for the next two years. If you haven't paid enough for this tax year but have for the previous year, you will be entitled to only one year healthcare.

This form can be obtained from the D.S.S. in Newcastle. It will be sent to your UK home address and if you supply a Spanish address when you return the form completed, it will be posted to you in Spain. You will need to take the form to the I.N.S.S. office (the Spanish equivalent to the D.S.S.) . After the form has been stamped it is valid for one or two years (depending on contributions in the UK).

This form can also be applied for to be used a 'stop-gap' should you take early retirement and have been paying contributions in the UK for the last three years.

It is important to remember that after officially transferring healthcare to Spain, you will only be eligible for healthcare in the UK as a visitor.

Is healthcare free to pensioners?

If you are a retired British citizen and have residency in Spain then you are entitled to full health care provision under the Spanish National Health Service. You will need to obtain from E121 in the UK, which will not need renewing. After submitting the completed form to the appropriate authority in Spain, in due course you will receive a card and a letter confirming the details of your designated doctor and clinic in your area. The same procedure is true for anyone claiming 'incapacity benefit'.

Do I get free healthcare if I work in Spain?

If you were to reside in and work legally in Spain and pay Spanish Social Security contributions (Seguridad Social) then you would receive the same services. For persons who do not fall within the above categories or who are of below U.K. retirement age and who reside in Spain permanently, Private Medical Insurance should be arranged and is a legal obligation.

map of Spain