Spain ranks with the best in Europe when it comes to the standard of its healthcare. This guide is intended to give you the information you need should you have to make use of the healthcare system.
Hospitals are well managed and of a high standard especially in the popular tourist areas and the big cities. However standards vary across the country with public medicine being scant in many of the inland areas of low population. This is a point to consider when looking for somewhere to live especially if you or your children or elderly relatives have ongoing medical conditions that might need emergency treatment.
Another point to consider is that Spain takes a different view to rehabilitation, convalescence and terminal illness, leaving care in these cases usually to the relatives. There are very few public nursing or retirement homes and even fewer hospices and convalescence homes.
If you pay social security, healthcare in Spain is free or low cost, (families and retired people are also included). Like many countries however, the health service in Spain has waiting lists to see specialists and for non-urgent operations.
Visitors to Spain and foreign residents are able to use the Spanish National Health system, alongside Spanish nationals. However, there are many situations where the only alternative is private healthcare. There are ample companies offering this service in Spain. You pay a subscription and in return you are entitled to certain free and/or reduced price services.
Most of the hospitals in the tourist areas have volunteer translation services. However if you do not speak Spanish, then it is advisable to take someone who does speak Spanish with you to all appointments.
Nationals of EU countries can get free medical treatment in Spain on production of the relevant paperwork (Form E-111 for British people), although for holiday-makers, private insurance is highly recommended. Spain has a very good national health service that works alongside an excellent private sector.
If you decide to take up permanent residence then you must have an E-121 form.
When attending a hospital (except in the case of an emergency) you must present either a social security card, or an E111 or E121, evidence of private health insurance or proof of ability to pay the bills. If the insurance company does not pay the hospital directly then you should pay yourself (credit cards are generally accepted) and claim this from the insurance company at a later date.
No vaccinations are required for Spain, but if you plan on visiting North Africa , typhoid and polio boosters are highly recommended. The worst that is likely to happen to you is that you might fall victim to an upset stomach. To be safe, wash fruit and avoid tapas dishes that look as if they were cooked last week.
The system of educating doctors is Spain is the same as in Europe. Medical doctors receive their training as university undergraduates. In the social security system, you will usually be assigned a general doctor where you live.
With insurance, you will be able to select a primary care doctor from those affiliated with your plan. There are a number of doctors in Spain who speak English, especially in cities and resort areas, including doctors who received their training in English speaking countries. Embassies and consulates usually have lists of these doctors.
For minor complaints go to a farmacia- they're listed in the phone book in major towns and you'll find one in virtually every village - marked with a big green cross. Pharmacists are highly trained, willing to give advice (often in English), and able to dispense many drugs which would be available only on prescription in most other countries. They keep usual shop hours (9am. - 1.30 pm. and 5.30 – 8 pm.), but some open late and at weekends while a rota system keeps at least one open 24 hours. These are known as Farmacias de guardia.
If you have special medical or dietary requirements, it is advisable to carry a letter from your doctor, translated into Spanish, indicating the nature of your condition and necessary treatments.
There are many dental practices in Spain but they are private and, while they are cheaper than in the UK, they have to be paid for. Dental service is good and you can easily find a dentist who speaks your language, especially in the more commercial resorts.
The Eastern Mediterranean areas of Spain are amongst the healthiest places in the world to live, a fact endorsed by the World Health Organisation. Spain has a number of different climates with the damp and misty north and the hot arid south being the most extreme.
Rheumatism and arthritis sufferers frequently note a huge improvement in their conditions and an increase in mobility after moving to Spain.
People who suffer from stress often note a marked improvement as the pace of life is slower than in many European countries and the change in lifestyle in a warm and sunny climate generally makes people happier, less prone to ailments and with boosted immune systems.
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