Healthcare in Spain

Healthcare in Spain

For anyone moving to Spain, healthcare arrangements rank as a top priority. Whatever your age or reason for living in Spain you’ll be likely to need some sort of medical assistance at some point.

This article looks at general healthcare in Spain generally and describes what’s available for foreign residents or visitors.

For information on how to benefit from public healthcare in Spain, click here.

For detailed information on private health insurance in Spain, click here.

Healthcare in Spain – what’s available

Not only do Spaniards enjoy one of the world’s longest life expectancies and healthiest lifestyles, they also benefit from a sound healthcare system.

The country has a solid network of healthcare centres and hospitals, some of which rank among the best in Europe.

The basis to healthcare in Spain is the public system, financed through social security contributions and available throughout the country.

Complementing public healthcare is the increasing popular option of private healthcare, financed through insurance policies.

Public healthcare in Spain

The responsibility for public healthcare in Spain comes under the umbrella of regional governments. While national directives are broadly similar, regional regulations and protocol differ.

That said, you will find the same treatments available throughout the country.

The public healthcare system in Spain is generally good, but since the economic crisis it has suffered from cutbacks in facilities and staff.

Public healthcare in Spain starts at local level at health centres, known as centros de salud.

When you sign up to the public healthcare system you are allocated a general doctor – in some regions, children under 12 are allocated a paediatrician.

Health centres vary in size and facilities: the smallest may be limited to one or two doctors’ surgeries and the largest come equipped with emergency care, x-ray facilities and specialist clinics.

All large towns have at least one public hospital and you’ll find several in cities. Some specialise in certain areas of medicine and there may be a maternity and children’s hospital, although most public hospitals in Spain offer a wide range of medical care.

Need to know – public healthcare is free in Spain except for prescribed medicine.

Depending on your status and the region you live in, you usually pay a percentage of the prescription.

Pros and cons of public healthcare in Spain

Several benefits come with public healthcare in Spain including:

•    It’s free for the vast majority of residents in Spain.
•    Medical staff are highly-trained (all doctors are required to pass a rigorous national exam and spend several years training in-house).  
•    Public hospitals are equipped to deal with most medical emergencies.
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages of public healthcare such as:
•    Waiting lists can be long for some treatments in some areas.
•    You can’t always choose your doctor or specialist.
•    You’re less likely to come across English-speaking staff.

Private healthcare in Spain

Private healthcare in Spain has become increasingly popular over the last decade. More and more Spaniards are taking out private medical insurance as the network of private clinics and hospitals grows, particularly in large towns and cities.

Options for private healthcare in Spain include a designated doctor in a private clinic.

These often include surgeries for general doctors as well as specialists plus facilities for x-rays and tests etc. Private hospitals are generally available in cities, but there may not be one in towns so you might have to travel to reach one.

Need to know – ask for recommendations on the best private healthcare in Spain and choose an option to suit your needs.

Pros and cons of private healthcare in Spain

Like public healthcare in Spain, the private system comes with benefits and drawbacks.

Among the advantages are:

•    Shorter waiting lists.
•    No need for referral to a specialist from your general doctor.
•    More likely to have English-speaking staff.

However, there are some disadvantages including:

•    Private insurance can be expensive.
•    Some private hospitals lack equipment for certain medical emergencies.
•    Doctors are all highly-trained but may not have the experience of those in the public healthcare system.