Health and Medical Care

The healthcare system in Spain is ranked amongst one of the best in the world and combines both private and public facilities. Expats living and working in Spain may have access to the Free State healthcare which is partly paid by the social security payments which is deducted from your wages.

Spain’s 17 regions takes responsibility for the performance of medical services in their area, so expats might find that healthcare provisions are different depending on the location.

Public Health Care

Public hospitals in Spain provide healthcare and emergency services for Spanish residents. Professionals in public hospitals are educated and most hospitals employ people who speak English. The disadvantage of public healthcare is that the waiting period to see specialists is quite long and some patients can take months.

For use of the public healthcare system, expats will need to get a social security card from the Social security Treasury. Individuals will then need to obtain a medical card from the local clinic which will allow patients to use services of the nationwide public health network.

You must be registered on the municipal register of Spain to be able to obtain a Social security number

State public health care is free for those who are working and living in the country although in some of the Spanish Islands you will have to travel to find a healthcare provider.

Expats are entitled to free healthcare if they are:

  • A resident in Spain and work in employment or are self employed paying social security
  • A resident in Spain receiving certain state benefits
  • A child resident in Spain
  • Under 26 and studying in Spain
  • Staying for a temporary period and have an EHIC card

For those who don’t have the right to free healthcare will have to find private health cover.

Private Health Care

Expats who are not paying social security contributions have the option to take out private health insurance or to pay the full medical cost fees. This is generally chosen so that individuals have access to more options for treatment and to avoid the queues and waiting lists of the public health system.

Spain has many private hospitals and clinics around the country with costs being affordable for most expats. As a result of this it is highly recommended that expats who will use private health care on regular basis should also take out health insurance

EHIC – European Health Insurance Card

An EHIC card is used to access state healthcare in Spain if you are in the country for a temporary visit or if you are studying part of a course which is based in your home country.

This card can be used to get medical treatments through the public healthcare system for free or at a reduced cost.

Health Insurance

When taking out private healthcare expats should also take out health insurance as private companies pick up the amount if the account holder pays the monthly premiums.

Expats who have secured jobs in Spain will find that their employer offers health insurance but this should be checked with the employer before arranging their own health insurance.

Spanish health insurance providers offers plans which suit the local market and follows the contract on an international services.


Spain has many pharmacies in the country and are easily recognised by the large green sign outside. Pharmacies are open on a daily basis 24/7 and on weekends.

All medicines have to be purchased at the Pharmacy and it isn’t possible to buy medication in supermarkets.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in the country have both public and private ambulance services which offer timely services.

When there is an emergency the number to dial is 112, this is the general emergency number and operators are able to speak English.

Other emergency numbers include

  • 060 – ambulances
  • 961 496 199 – Emergency dentists
  • 963 600 313 – On duty pharmacy

Spanish Phrases which may need to be used in emergencies

  • Accident: Accidente
  • Emergency:Emergencia/Urgencia
  • I need an ambulance: Necesito una ambulancia
  • I need a doctor:Necesito un medico
  • Stroke:El accidente vascular cerebral
  • Heart attack: Ataque cardiaco/Infarto