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Moving to Spain, What You Need to Know - Healthcare

There are many Spanish doctors and dentists in Spain who speak English as well as other languages. The best specialists are on a par with their colleagues anywhere in the world and emergency care is very good. The owner of this site can provide information on most aspects of health care in Spain.


The emergency number in Spain is 112, for all emergency services, while each region has other numbers direct to fire, police, or ambulance. For ambulatory emergency cases it is best to go to one of the large Social Security hospitals which are modern and well equipped. You will be attended to even though you do not have your papers in order. If you are British or have reciprocal rights from another country, the paperwork will be processed automatically through the hospital. If not, you will still be attended to and an invoice will be forwarded at a later date. (See "Social Security" below).


The chemist's, called "farmacia"; have an illuminated green, or occasionally red, cross outside. The green cross depicts a dispensing chemist, while the red is a chemist with no dispensary, like ‘Superdrug’ or similar; where you can buy over-the-counter pills and lotions but not prescription meds.  They do not normally open on Saturday afternoons or Sundays, but there is a twenty-four hour duty chemist service and details can be found in local newspapers and chemists' windows.

If you have difficulty in obtaining a certain medicine (perhaps because it is sold under a different brand name) the "Oficina de Sanidad" can provide information on what brand name it is sold under in Spain. Similarly if you require medicines which have no Spanish equivalent the same office will deal with the import authorisation. However, a formal request by your doctor in Spain has to be submitted and the process could be lengthy. Therefore, it would be advisable to bring supplies of essential medicines with you. Relocations España® can make enquiries to advise you on the availability of any specific medicines in Spain.

Spanish Health Provision

The Spanish health service provides excellent health treatment for all citizens. You can take out private health insurance, but once you are legally resident in Spain, you can take advantage of this great and ever-improving national health service.

Every neighbourhood has its health centre (ambulatorio), where one is assigned a general practitioner (médico de cabecera) and a paediatrician (pediatra) as required. Consultations are arranged on an appointment system and referrals to specialists are made by your general practitioner.

Although many doctors may well have learnt a foreign language as part of their studies it may not be possible within the state system to be matched up with a doctor who spoke your own language, so take an interpretor with you when possible.

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is available in Spain and within the English-speaking community, also there are practitioners offering different therapies.

Social Security

Payment of the basic social security contributions in most countries is an obligatory requirement for all persons resident and working. There are exceptions to this rule however, and Spain is a party to many of the bilateral treaties and international agreements which regulate these situations.

Broadly speaking, an expatriate living temporarily in Spain falls into one of three categories in this respect:

  • EU citizens
  • Citizens of countries with bilateral treaties
  • Others

In the case of the European Union, the social security systems of member states have a reasonably well-developed collaboration in force, which provides for reciprocal health care when travelling (provided the appropriate documents are obtained before leaving), integration of pension benefits where contributions are made in more than one member state etc. In principle, contributions are made in the country of residence.

In the case of countries with bilateral treaties, whilst there is inevitably a similarity between most of them, the exact terms of the treaties must be studied. Perhaps one of the most important examples of the effect of these treaties is the possibility that permits US citizens who are sent to Spain by their employer in the US, to continue making contributions in the US and receiving exemption in Spain.

Other cases must clearly be studied on their merits, although in general one should expect to be treated as a Spanish citizen from the point of view of both benefits and liabilities for purposes of social security contributions whilst resident in Spain.