Your healthcare options in Spain

Posted on 08 December 2017

When moving to Spain, you are moving to a country whose healthcare system has been ranked as one of the best in the world by the World Health Organisation; you can rest assured that you and your family’s health is in good hands.

While each autonomous community in Spain has their own healthcare budget, across the country the system is non-contributory and is paid solely by tax money. Those who work or are self-employed here will pay automatically into the social security system. If you are moving to Spain as a pensioner you will find that you are treated free of charge under the current EU reciprocal scheme; however it is important to be aware that this may change once the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU are complete.

Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world

Day-to-day healthcare

To access this healthcare scheme, you will need to declare yourself as resident in your town hall – and as soon as you do, it’s a good idea to find your nearest hospital and the local doctor. At this point you will receive a medical card and this should be used to register with your local health service (centro de asistencia primeria (CAP)) which is essentially like a GP surgery. You will visit here for your routine appointments, which must be booked in advance, as well emergency appointments 24 hours a day. Most of the medical staff here will speak some standard of English, but we would recommend familiarising yourself with key phrases (or take a translator with you) just in case.


Usually if you need to visit a hospital, you will receive a referral from your GP, although of course A&E services are available. Both specialist and emergency care is rated as excellent and services are very thorough. The hospitals are well run and clean, and have longer visiting times than the UK, with no limits to numbers.

Private healthcare

Many of those who move to Spain choose to take out private healthcare as this will enable to them to access all the benefits of the Spanish healthcare system without worrying about paying into the social security system if they are not working – for example, if they have taken early retirement, so are not ‘officially’ pensioners and entitled to free healthcare. When choosing a private healthcare scheme, it’s so important to make sure you know exactly what you and your family need and what each policy can offer you; don’t hesitate to shop around for the right one. Even if you are working in Spain, you may find that your employer can offer you private healthcare as a financial benefit of your employment.


The prescription services in Spain are similar to those in the UK; these can be purchased in any pharmacy (farmacias), and you will usually find one in every corner. There is also a cost for these; however, unlike in the UK, the cost of these prescriptions is income dependent. If you earn less than €18,000 a year, you will pay 40% of the total cost; if you earn between €18,000 and €100,000 per year you will pay 50% of the cost, and if you earn over €100,000, you pay 60%.

For more information on moving to Spain, click here to download the Spain Buying Guide. It’s completely FREE and packed with great advice. 

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