Healthcare in Spain  

Spain is one of the largest countries in western Europe and is a popular destination for working expats and retirees alike. Expats living in Spain will be treated to a diverse natural environment and a range of cultural experiences. 

Spain further offers a high quality of life for a relatively low cost of living. Those with permanent residency will benefit from a range of government services, including subsidised education and healthcare.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

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 highly trained. Most hospitals in Spain also have accident and emergency departments. While there are many English-speaking doctors in Spain, this is not a given at every hospital, in which case 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 that includes GP services, nursing and paediatrics, social workers and physiotherapists.

Anyone who pays into the Spanish social security system can make use of government-subsidised public healthcare. As with many other European destinations, expats or visitors who are from another European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country and can present a valid EHIC or equivalent will be able to use the Spanish public healthcare system at the same cost as locals. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

For the most part, unemployed, non-EU citizens will not be able to use the public healthcare system. As such, non-EU citizens should take out comprehensive medical insurance to cover private healthcare costs.

Spain has some bilateral agreements with countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Andorra, and citizens from these countries can also benefit from government hospitals and medical care in cases of medical emergencies or accidents. In order to make use of these services, expats will need to carry a health certificate from their country of origin or pay for the services 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 use private healthcare. Expats using private care will be able to avoid the queues and waiting lists associated with the country’s public system. Spanish private hospitals usually have excellent facilities and deliver high quality, attentive service and improved comfort for patients.

The cost of private healthcare in Spain can be exorbitant however, and it is essential that all expats intending to use it take out comprehensive international health insurance. Without the cover of private health insurance, some treatments in private hospitals can be prohibitively expensive.

Pharmacies in Spain are abundant and easily accessible. Spanish pharmacists are usually knowledgeable and efficient and can often recommend over-the-counter medications and treatments.

Expats living in larger urban centres will find that some pharmacies are open 24-hours, and there are even a few that will deliver medication to one’s home. However, expats living in rural Spain may have more difficulty getting medication after hours.

Expats who qualify to use public healthcare will be able to purchase most medications at reduced rates. It is advisable to find out the generic name of any long-term prescription drug, as brand names tend to vary from one country to another.

In an emergency, expats in Spain will be able to use the general EU emergency number, 112. Operators on this line will be able to speak English and communicate with the relevant local emergency service. The local emergency number for Spain is 061.

Those living in urban areas will have access to timely emergency response services, whereas expats in rural areas may experience longer wait times or even have to drive themselves to hospital.

Expats should also take note of the number for their home country’s embassy or consulate for cases of emergency.