The Spanish state covers the health and pharmaceutical needs of all its citizens by means of the National Health Service, financed through Social Security contributions and managed by the Autonomous Communities through their Consejerías de Sanidad [Health Departments] and Servicios Regionales de Salud [Regional Health Services]. More than 90% of the population use this system for their medical needs.
All employed and self-employed persons must join the Social Security system and pay monthly Social Security contributions. They are given a Social Security card which must be applied for in the Health Centre corresponding to their address. This entitles them to obtain free medical, pharmaceutical and hospital care but not dental care.
The system allows members of the public to choose their own GP. Most patients can obtain an appointment with their doctor within one or two days. To consult a specialist, patients must be referred by their GP, except in urgent cases. Unfortunately, as in most European countries, the waiting lists for a specialist visit or for elective or non-urgent surgery are usually long.
In an emergency, the best thing to do is to go to the nearest A&E department and, if necessary, you can call an ambulance by phoning 112.
Drugs are always prescribed by a doctor using an official prescription and the patient pays 40% of the price. Medicines usually cost less than in other countries, due to price capping by the government.
Chemists open in shifts to offer an out-of-hours service (night and public holidays) as duty chemists. You can find out which chemist is on duty by looking in the newspaper or in the window of any chemist shop, where a list will usually be affixed.
EU citizens who are not in the Social Security System may obtain health care during temporary trips to Spain provided they have obtained the European Health Card in their own country.
Approximately 15% of the population has taken out a form of private medical insurance to complement or as an alternative to the public health service. It is possible to take out such insurance with one of the many private medical companies or firms in Spain. These companies have their own clinics, surgeries and laboratories. Prices vary depending on the age and sex of the beneficiary. To give you an idea, a man of 40 will pay around EUR 54 per month, while a woman of the same age will pay EUR 69.
Text last edited on: 08/2010
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