Hospitals in Spain

Unlike 25 years ago, there is no shortage of good hospitals and private clinics along the southern Costas. However, costs for private health insurance vary enormously–though you’re likely to find it far less expensive than at home, which is a big draw for many who are considering a retirement in Spain.


Comprehensive policies for people 55 to 60 years old go from 860 annually up to 2,000 euro. A routine visit to a private doctor is normally 35 to 55 euro; home visits are from around 50 to 110 euro, depending on whether it’s day or night. The cost of a bed in a private hospital is in the region of 135 euro per day. Include doctor fees and you can plan on about 275 per day for the duration of any stay. State health care is considered good and available for free or at reduced costs. However, you must be contributing to Spanish social security or be receiving a state
pension from another EU country to benefit.

In 1998 the Sistema Sanitario Público (public health service) brought in an official mandate for both doctors and patients outlining the service to which you are entitled — plus what the health service expects from you.

In any doctor’s office you should find these rights in a leaflet entitled Carta de Derechos y Deberes (Charter of Rights and Obligations) – only minimally different, if at all, in various provinces – which tells you everything
in detail. Some small practices have posters on the wall containing all the facts you would find in the leaflet, but whatever the case you are entitled to view these rights.

Hospitals are generally very good, with an efficient and fairly rapid service. If it is an emergency you do not, of course, have to be referred by a doctor. You should ensure you have either your E111/E121 form or your medical card as they will wish to see this. The hospital might also ask for identification, as this is routine everywhere in Spain. Either your passport or residence card will suffice.

You do not have to pay for any service other than prescriptions (if you are not a pensioner). If you are alone and an ambulance has brought you in for, perhaps, an x-ray to check something is not broken, an ambulance will also return you to your home, even if nothing is found to be wrong. If you have to stay in hospital and do not speak Spanish, you will find that even in smaller cities there are usually a couple of doctors and a nurse or two who can speak English. But if not, they will do their best to help you. If you do not speak the language it would be wise, if you do not have a friend who speaks Spanish, to at least take along your Spanish/English dictionary.

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