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Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in Spain

Submitted: July 2013

The first thing to know is whether you are looking for private healthcare or SNS healthcare. More than 50% of Spanish hospitals are private. It is therefore important to check the “dependencia patrimonial” of a healthcare facility to avoid disappointment.

If you are entitled to SNS services (See National Health System for Expats in the UK), SNS doctors and hospitals are essentially free, though there might be waiting lists. SNS services are decentralised to regional governments, and rules may vary drastically from one region to another. Alternatively, you might wish to pay for a private healthcare provider.

An expat should be wary of language issues prior to going to a doctor. Spanish healthcare professionals are not necessarily fluent in English. Depending on the region you live in, locals do not necessarily speak Spanish in their everyday life either. A list of English-speaking doctors may be found here.

If you live in remote areas (e.g. islands), you might have to travel in order to find a doctor or a hospital.

Finding your local surgery

Healthcare centres are responsible for primary care in Spain. They are referred to as “centros de salud” or “consultorios”, depending on their size. You can simply walk-in and ask for treatment at the reception.

The Spanish healthcare system is designed to make sure that primary care facilities are available within 15 minutes from any residential location. Typically, a healthcare centre covers 5,000 to 25,000 inhabitants.

A list of healthcare centres can be found here.

Alternatively, a general practitioner may take you as a private patient. A comprehensive list of Spanish doctors can be found here.

Specialist treatment and hospitals

If you need treatment from a specialist, you must seek referral from your healthcare centre first. If your doctor from your local healthcare centre believes it is clinically necessary to see a specialist, he may refer you to a specialised centre (centro especializado).

You should check if the specialist treatment you are looking for is free, subsidised, or available in the private sector only. Emergency treatment is always free in Spain. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Spain.

Alternatively, a specialist consultant may take you as a private patient. A comprehensive list of Spanish doctors can be found here.

Dental care

Dental emergencies can be made for free in public hospitals. Non-urgent treatment should generally be made in the private sector, but you should check with your local health centre if public dental care is available.

For example, subsidised dental care is available in Andalusia’s health centres (centros de salud) for children aged 6 to 15 and the disabled, while other patients would be charged an amount set by decree.

Dental care in Spain can also be made in private practices, and it is relatively cheap by European standards. You should check if your insurance policy covers dental care in Spain. See Health Insurance for Expats in Spain.

Bringing medicines to Spain

You should check before moving to Spain if your medical condition requires specific treatment, as some therapies or drugs may be subject to licensing in Spain.

For instance, the UK Department of Health advises to arrange oxygen therapy with the Spanish authorities at least one month prior to moving to Spain. For some drugs, it might be helpful to contact your local Spanish embassy even earlier, as demand may be particularly high in certain areas of Spain with a lot of visitors.

 

 




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