Your interactive guide to living abroad as recommended by local mums | Last updated 8 months ago


Accessing Healthcare in Spain

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Visitors to Spain

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Spain at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free when on a temporary stay. The Spanish health authority determines what treatment is considered necessary and cannot wait until your return to the UK.

The EHIC also covers you for routine maternity care provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered in Spain

Visit the Healthcare in Spain website, which gives more information about using your EHIC in Spain.

Find Help in Emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge and valid in all Spanish territories. The Spanish word for A&E department is "urgencias".

Other important phone numbers to note down:

112 or 061 – ambulance (ambulancia)

091 – national police (policía nacional)

092 – local police (policía municipal)

062 – civil guard (guardia civil)

080 – fire brigade (bomberos)

900 202 202 – sea rescue (salvamento y seguridad marítima)

Health Services and Costs

State-provided healthcare is generally free of charge. However, in some parts of the country, particularly the outlying islands, you may have to travel some distance to find a state healthcare provider. If you need to call out a doctor in an emergency, make sure you have a valid EHIC and ask for state-funded healthcare.

Some hospitals and health centres (centro de salud) offer both private (privado) and state-provided healthcare (asistencia sanitaria pública) and it is up to you to inform them which service you require. They may also often have separate surgery times for private patients and those treated under the state system. Generally, if you are asked to pay upfront, you are not being treated under the Spanish health service and your EHIC will not be accepted.

It is important to note your EHIC does not cover private treatment. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable. You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

It's always advisable to have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Repatriation for medical treatment is not covered by the EHIC.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

Spanish health authorities are decentralised, so systems can differ quite drastically. A directory to all regional health bodies in the autonomous communities can be found on the Spanish health ministry's website (information mainly in Spanish). Simply select your region on the map provided and look for the section marked Servicio de Salud (healthcare system).

You may be able to register for healthcare as a resident but only if you have been resident prior to 24th April 2012. The two other conditions to be met are that you have an annual income of less than 100,000€ and you do not have entitlement to healthcare through any other means (e.g. linked to a state pension or benefit, or a private insurance scheme). To support this, you may be asked to provide a letter confirming you have no entitlement to healthcare from the UK called a ‘Legislation Letter’ that can be obtained from the Overseas Healthcare Team by calling 00 44 191 218 1999 (you will need your UK national insurance number at hand).

You can access the application form on this link however; you will need to apply in person at your local INSS office (take the above documentation along with your residency, padrón and passports -with photocopies- to your nearest Social Security office. Please consult the INSS directly for the full list of requirements to support you application.

If you do not submit an annual tax return in Spain, you may be asked to prove your taxable income from the UK (country of nationality).


Dental treatment is not covered by the public healthcare system unless it's an emergency. Most emergency departments or health centres have a dentist attached that can deal with dental emergencies.


Just like in the UK, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment. Make sure you are referred to a public hospital as only these provide treatment free of charge. Again, even in a public hospital ensure you have a valid EHIC and double-check you are not treated as a private patient.

In public healthcare facilities, you have the right to insist your EHIC is accepted. You do not have to provide travel insurance details unless you choose to do so.


You can take your prescription to any pharmacy (farmacia) in Spain. They can be identified by a green cross. There are prescription charges in Spain. When using your EHIC, people of working age are charged 50% and pensioners are charged about 10%. Pensioners will have to declare they are in receipt of a State Pension in order to pay the lower rate.

Prescription charges are non-refundable. If you are told by a hospital that you require medicine following your discharge, you must take the hospital medical report to a doctor, who will give you a prescription. This is because doctors in public hospitals will prescribe medicines on the appropriate medical report but do not issue official prescriptions.

Bringing your own medicines to Spain

If you have a condition that requires you to bring your own medicines to Spain, you should have a letter from you GP stating what the medicines are and why you need them. If possible, have the letter translated into Spanish, as this will also be useful in case you need to see a health professional during your stay.

If any of your medicines fall into the controlled drugs category, you need to comply with regulations on drugs exports in the UK. In addition, you'll need to apply for the Spanish import license at your nearest Spanish consulate with the following documentation:

1) license for exportation of controlled drugs

2) full name, current address and contact telephone number of applicant or drug unit

3) flight details (dates) and destination address in Spain

4) fax number or address details to send the Spanish Import License once received from Spain