Healthcare in Spain

► Buy the Spain Expat Guide in PDF format.

The healthcare system in Spain is generally of a high standard and combines both private and public facilities, with residents in possession of a Spanish social security number and the necessary documentation entitled to receive free or low-cost healthcare.
Each of the country’s 17 regions takes individual responsibility for the implementation and execution of medical services within their respective area, so expats may find healthcare provision differs slightly, depending on their location.

Public healthcare in Spain

Public hospitals provide much of the primary healthcare and emergency services that Spanish residents require. Staff are generally efficient and well educated, and hospitals often employ personnel who speak English or offer the services of interpreters. 
Public hospitals in Spain are well equipped. The downside is that the public sector has been known to suffer from staff shortfalls, and the waiting periods to see a specialist or have a procedure done can, in some cases, take months.
To be able to use the public healthcare system (Sistema Nacional de Salud) expats would first need to get a social security card at the Social Security Treasury Office (Tesorería de la Seguridad Social). It is then necessary to obtain a medical card at their local clinic, which will give them the right to use the services of the nationwide public health network.
Expats should note that a social security number can only be obtained if they have registered on the Empadronamiento, the municipal register. 
Non-residents unfortunately do not qualify to receive universal healthcare; however, there is a pay-in scheme for those who aren’t otherwise able to access state healthcare, called the Convenio Especial

Private healthcare in Spain

Some expats prefer private healthcare in Spain in order to have access to more options for treatment and physicians, and to avoid the queues of the public health system.
There are hundreds of private clinics and hospitals across the country, giving the private healthcare system a greater degree of accessibility.
While single consultations within the private system may be affordable for most expats, the cost of a medical complication or an emergency can quickly escalate. As a result, it's recommended that expats who plan to regularly utilise private care take out health insurance.

Health insurance in Spain

While the public health service sometimes only covers 75 percent of the cost of treatment, private companies generally pick up the full amount if the account holder pays their monthly premiums.
Most employers offer private health insurance for foreign assignees, so expats moving to Spain for professional reasons should check their contract before arranging their own coverage. Private insurance providers operate in different ways; some reimburse the amount spent on healthcare, while others pay medical bills directly.
Expats should note that most Spanish health insurance providers offer plans that best suit the local market, and it follows that contracting an international service provider or one that covers all of Europe might be beneficial.
Pensioners moving to Spain should take special care to ensure that they can obtain optimal treatment for the best price.

Medicines and pharmacies in Spain

Expats will not struggle to find a pharmacy (farmacia) in Spain, and can easily recognise them by a large green neon cross outside. Pharmacies are open daily, including on weekends, and some are open 24/7. 
Just about all medicines have to be purchased at a pharmacy; it’s not possible to buy any medication in a supermarket in Spain. Medicines are quite cost-effective in Spain due to strict price restrictions.

Emergency services in Spain

There are both state-run and private ambulance services in Spain. Both offer efficient and timely services. Expats can dial 112 in the case of any emergency. This is a general emergency number; operators are usually able to speak English and will dispatch the relevant emergency services.

Search Expat Arrivals

Become our local expat expert for your area!

Become our local expat expert for your area! We are looking for contributors to help make this the ultimate guide for expats. Get in touch if you can provide useful info on your city or answer forum questions from new expats.
Find out more.

Got a question about your new country?

Login with your Facebook account (Recommended)
, after login or registration your account will be connected.