Spain Health Information
If you are planning to live in Spain it is extremely important to plan your healthcare requirements carefully. This guide will give you detailed and the most up to date information of the Spanish health system.
The quality of healthcare in Spain is in general very good. Spain comfortably ranks as 7th in the world for quality of healthcare, according to the most recent World Health Organisation survey (the United Kingdom came in at 17th). Statistics available from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) show that Spain is above average in many categories, for example, the average life expectancy in Spain is 81.1 where as the OECD average is 79.
The medical staff in Spain are highly trained and all major hospitals are equipped with the necessary equipment needed. Many Doctors and Nurses speak good English but a basic understanding of the Spanish language is helpful especially in the more rural areas of Spain. Some of the larger hospitals in cities and tourist areas do have translators, such as, Malaga, Marbella, Madrid and Barcelona.
The general ruling in Spain is that a health centre, surgery or hospital should be no more than 15 minutes from a place of residents and any patient can be seen in their own home if needs be. The more rural areas of Spain do have surgeries that are open on certain days with visits from regional medical staff. To have an operation in Spain you will be placed on a waiting list but be assured it will be a shorter wait than in the United Kingdom.
The Spanish health system has a similar layout to the UK, it is run along a two tier system. The first tier is the National Health Service, which you are entitled to as a native of Spain, a British national or any other nationality if you are making regular social security contributions. You will have to obtain a social security number either by working for a company in Spain or by working for yourself and then registering with your local doctor who will issue a tarjeta sanitaria (health card). Appointments can be booked with your Doctor in Spain over the telephone, in the surgery or online.
The second tier is the Spain private health care sector, which is covered by insurance. Private health insurance is becoming more and more popular within Spain. Being able to effectively jump the queue of the Spanish health service can lead to much shortened delays in treatment which in many cases can save lives. The costs of private health care in Spain vary depending mainly on your age and current overall health.
Visitors and holiday makers should have holiday health insurance sufficient to cover there stay in Spain along with their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will cover any medical treatment that becomes necessary due to illness or an accident at no cost. It will allow you to be treated on the same basis as a resident of Spain. The EHIC is not a substitute or replacement for travel insurance and will not cover the cost of you being brought back to the UK. If you are moving to Spain your EHIC will cover you for a few weeks whilst setting up a more long term solution.