Doctors in Spain
As with any business or service, there are good and bad tales about Spanish medicine. However, it is safe to say that local doctors in Spain are as highly qualified as in any other EU country, sometimes more so. Under the Carta de Derechos y Deberes you may choose your own doctor — it is not necessary to be living in a particular area.
You may choose your doctor from the phone book or from passing his or her clinic in the street, but it is always best, no matter what country you are in, to go by recommendation of a friend or neighbour. If you do not like this doctor you are entitled to change practices. It is very easily done: you just visit the new doctor and show him the same information you showed the preceding doctor. If you have been under treatment, however, it is wise to inform the second doctor of this so that your information may be transferred, in confidence, to your new practitioner.
You may also choose to go to a Centro de Salud (healthcare centre), which usually has about half a dozen doctors. You may not always get the doctor you first went to, but they do endeavour to give you a sense of regularity. At a Centro de Salud you must make an appointment, whereas many doctors with their own practices take patients in the order in which they arrive.
You can find the address and telephone number of all the Centros de Salud in your region in the A-Z Listings (www.paginasamarillas.es). Upon your first visit you must show the doctor or receptionist your E111/E121 form (plus a photocopy which they will keep for their records) or your medical card. From that he or she will enter the details onto their computer and determine also whether you are a pensioner (which covers disabilities also) or an activo, the latter being a person capable of paying for prescriptions. You do not need to pay your doctor for a consultation, or when referred to a specialist.
Under the rights brought into effect in 1998 you are entitled to be accompanied by a person you trust, not necessarily family, at all times while visiting your doctor or specialist.