The public healthcare system in Spain is generally considered to be of a high standard. Spanish hospitals are modern and well-equipped, and staff are knowledgeable and well-trained. Most hospitals in Spain also have accident and emergency departments. Expats should keep in mind that most medical staff are not fluent in English, but a voluntary translation service is sometimes available.
The National Health Service of Spain has a wide network of hospitals and health centres located throughout the country. These health centres provide primary healthcare services that include family and GP services, nursing and paediatrics, social workers and physiotherapists. Additionally, if circumstances require, it is often possible for the medical professionals to go to the patient’s residence.
Anyone who pays into the Spanish social security system can make use of the government-subsidised public healthcare system. As with many other European destinations, expatriates or visitors who are from another European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) member state and can present a valid EHIC or equivalent will be able to use the Spanish public healthcare system at the same cost as locals. For the most part, unemployed, non-EU citizens will not be able to use the public healthcare system and will have to make contributions to a private medical insurance scheme throughout their stay in the country.
Spain has some bilateral agreements with countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Andorra, and these citizens can also avail of government hospitalisation and medical care in cases of medical emergencies or accidents. In order to make use of these services expats will need to carry the health certificate from their country of origin or pay upfront and claim a refund once they have returned home.
Despite the high standard of public healthcare in Spain, most expats and wealthy locals opt to make use of private healthcare. Expats using private healthcare will be able to avoid the queues and waiting lists associated with the country’s public healthcare system. Spanish private hospitals usually have excellent facilities and deliver high quality, attentive service and improved comfort for patients.
Private healthcare in Spain can be exorbitantly expensive, and as such it is essential that all expats intending to use it take out comprehensive international healthcare insurance. Without the assistance of private health insurance some treatments in private hospitals can be prohibitively expensive.