Italy’s health service, the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale or SSN, is considered to be one of the best in Europe, with access to treatment and facilities for all Italian residents and citizens of the EU and a high standard of care.
The national health service in Italy (the SSN) is divided by region (implemented by local health authorities), providing excellent care free of charge at the point of service, and consistently ranks among the World Health Organisation’s top 10 countries.
Those who are employed in Italy or pay into Italian National Insurance system may benefit from an extensive network of medical facilities. New residents should register with the SSN via their local health authority, or Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL), where they will usually be asked to show their resident’s card and tax code. Self-employed or freelance residents should register with their local Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza Sociale.
Following their application, individuals will be given a list of local GPs (medici generici) and family doctors through the ASL (Children younger than 14 should be registered with a paediatrician). Most embassies and consulates also keep a useful list of English-speaking doctors, of whom there are many in the larger cities but can be harder to come by in more rural areas or further South.
After selecting a doctor, the new patient is issued with a slip to present in person upon registering with them. Most family doctors practise in surgeries or small health centres known as Poliambulatori, which offer a variety of services from gynaecology to minor surgery. Having chosen a doctor, new patients will be issued with an Italian health card, theTessera Sanitaria with their unique ID number, which should be shown at each visit. This means that the individual is entitled to appointments and general care free of charge (although they may need to pay for any specific specialist services).
GPs are responsible for issuing prescriptions (a ricetta) and referring patients to a specialist or non emergency hospital appointments (a referral is known as an impegnativa). Italian hospitals can be either public or private. Many British expats opt to take out private medical insurance (Assicurazione Sulla Salute), the cost of which varies on an individual basis). However there are more private hospitals in the North of Italy than in the South, where the public system is still a more practical option.
Anyone in need of urgent medical care should visit the pronto soccorso (accident and emergency department) of the closest Ospedale (hospital). Emergency care is available free of charge to everyone, regardless of whether they have state health coverage or not.
For all over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions (a ricetta), go to a pharmacy (farmacia), as medicine is not sold in supermarkets. Pharmacies are marked by a large green or gold cross sign, with the location of the nearest out of hours pharmacies (Farmacia di Turno), which operate late at night and on Sundays clearly marked in the window or door. Most prescriptions are fully or partly subsidised by the SSN, with a small co-payment for certain medicines.
Most dentists in Italy operate private practices, however there are state-provided dental care facilities provided by the SSN.
Emergency Numbers In Italy
Fire brigade – 115
For more useful information on moving to Italy, visit our step-by-step guide at MumAbroad.com.