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Healthcare in Spain

Spain has been one of the most popular holiday destinations for UK travellers for decades, and 6.5 million Brits travel to sunny Spain each year. Falling ill on holiday is not something we’d like to think about, but a combination of sun and sangria means that thousands of UK holidaymakers end up in hospital in Spain each year. There are a few important considerations when you are deciding which sort of insurance meets your needs.

EHIC in Spain

EHIC is the European Union health insurance card, and will allow UK visitors to access the Spanish healthcare system during a visit. In Spain, healthcare is managed by the regional governments and have a mix of private and public care. Always make it clear that you want to access state healthcare (asistencia sanitaria publica), especially if you are asking a hotel or tour operator to find a doctor on your behalf. EHIC will cover emergency treatment free of charge, but may not cover routine healthcare. Different rules apply in different hospitals, and it is not unheard of for people being asked to pay for sheets and blankets for their bed or food during their stay in hospital. If you are asked to pay, make sure you keep all receipts.

The Spanish healthcare system is good, but has been under increasing pressure in recent years. This has led to longer waiting times for surgery. In tourist areas it should be easy to find English speaking doctors and medical staff, but much more difficult in rural areas. Dental treatment is only covered by the state system in an emergency, and prescription charges are around 50% of the value of the medication.

Private Medicine in Spain

If you have travel insurance which covers you for medical emergencies, then you may have more flexibility over where you are admitted and treated. Travel insurance policies will not cover you for routine treatment which could wait until your return to the UK, or illnesses you knew about before travelling. There are many excellent private hospitals across Spain, mostly in the major cities and along the Mediterranean coasts. If you are admitted to a private hospital, you will be asked to pay in full for your treatment, so speak to your insurer as soon as you can to get them to agree to cover the cost. UK insurers deal with Spanish private hospitals every day, so this should not prove problematic. Always keep receipts and invoices for anything you have to pay, as these charges can often be reimbursed.

In tourist areas, staff in private hospitals will all speak excellent English and you will experience none of the delays associated with state healthcare. Your travel insurance policy will also cover the cost of getting you home to the UK to continue treatment, including air ambulance transfers for the most serious cases. Sporting accident cover is often not included as standard in travel insurance policies, so if you are planning on skiing, windsurfing or climbing during your trip to Spain, ensure your policy gives you adequate cover.