Free Healthcare in Spain After Brexit
The pandemic has only increased the importance of access to quality healthcare and for all those in love with Spain it's a comfort to know the country’s service is ranked amongst the best in the world.
And even better news is that EHIC cards are still valid post-Brexit to see a doctor when visiting your holiday home in Spain and for pensioners making a permanent move, free healthcare continues!
Is healthcare in Spain free?
Whether you are visiting your holiday home or making a permanent move to Spain, it's important to understand how you can access local healthcare. It's far from doom and gloom post-Brexit with your EHIC card still valid when visiting Spain and pensioners residing there entitled to free healthcare.
Watch our short Q&A with Sarah Owen and Martyn Standing from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Spain, and Martyn Standing from the British Embassy in Madrid to understand the eligibility requirements.
Please find useful links for more information in the links section at the bottom of this page.
European Health Insurance Card vs Global Health Insurance Card
The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) can still be used in Spain for temporary stays if you have one that has not expired yet. The EHIC currently entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident whilst travelling in Spain.
If your EHIC has expired (or is about to), you should apply for its replacement - the new UK GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card). It will cover chronic or existing illnesses and routine maternity care as well as emergencies. The GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. UK nationals who were resident in the EU before the end of 2020 will be able to continue using their EU-issued EHIC card when travelling within the EU.
Healthcare for Brits in Spain, living in Spain for more than 90 days
If you are living in Spain - or spending more than 90 days there (which means you will need a visa)- the situation is different, depending on your age/circumstances. You will need to take out private medical insurance for at least the first year you are there if you are under-65. If you are going over to Spain to work (with a work permit visa) and paying directly into the public health insurance scheme (Convenio Especial) after a year of being on the padron (registered at local town hall) you can access Spanish state healthcare.
You should register at your local health centre with your social security number and residency permit. You can get a social security number from your local National Social Security Institute (TGSS) office in Spain. Your dependants register separately. Once you’ve registered, you’ll get a health insurance card that you take with you when you visit a doctor.
Can you access free healthcare in Spain with a visa?
If you are going to be residing in Spain on a Non-Lucrative Visa - and thus not permitted to work in Spain - then you will need to keep up the private medical cover until you are over 65. But you can apply to join the public health insurance scheme after you have been registered with the padron for a year. You pay a monthly fee to join the scheme, which gives you access to the Spanish health system.
If you're moving to Spain with a Golden Visa, private medical insurance is also required - although you can also apply to join the Convenio and pay monthly after being on the padron a year.
Over-65s moving to Spain will continue to enjoy the same access to Spanish state healthcare as Spanish citizens, via the UK-issued S1. This is a healthcare entitlement certificate available to those in receipt of a UK state pension.
Does Spain have pharmacies?
In most villages in Spain, you’ll see the neon green cross of a local pharmacy, or ‘farmacia’, while towns or coastal resorts are likely to have half a dozen, or more.
In Spain, practically all types of medication, including paracetamol, must be bought from a pharmacy - not a supermarket, which means that in towns of a certain size, there will always be a pharmacy open 24 hours a day. A pharmacy that is closed after hours should indicate on their door where to find an open one.
Do you pay for prescriptions in Spain?
Many medications that would require a prescription in the UK can be bought freely - and work out cheaper - at a Spanish pharmacy, including antibiotics and stronger than average painkillers. Because of this, pharmacists will often deal with minor ailments or health issues that in the UK would be treated by a GP.
Check out our links below for more relocation information
Find out more about buying a property in Spain
Find out more about retiring to Spain
More articles and useful links...
Moving to Spain Post-Brexit - Healthcare (Article - Feb 2021)
Immigrations and visa requirements (Spanish Government website)
Healthcare in Spain guide (UK Government website)
More information for non-UK EU residents (UK Government website)
Apply for an EHIC or GHIC (NHS website)
Travel Advice (for those owning second home who make short stays) (UK Government website)