National Health Service (Spain)
Our experience has been of a first class service, very comparable to the British NHS and in some aspects quite superior, particularly in regard to access to medical specialists within a very short time frame.
Blood donors are always needed. If you are between 18 & 65 of good health, not on medication and not pregnant, please consider helping, it may be you or someone close who has a need. Contact your local Hospital or Clinic.
European Health Insurance Card is obtained by completing form EHIC which is available from British post offices or via the Department of Health.
Make sure that you get the form and apply before flying out.
The card, which is free, is a direct replacement for the old E111, entitling the holder to medical treatment when visiting any of the countries in the European Economic Area, which includes the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Cardholders are entitled to the same treatment, on the same terms, as the residents of the country they are travelling in - which in practice means either free or at a reduced cost.
Please note however, the EHIC card is not a substitute for travel insurance.
The EHIC form could take up to 21 days to process if you apply at a post office. If you apply directly through the Department of Health (0845 6062030; www.dh.gov.uk/travellers) it should take just seven days online or 10 days if you apply by phone.
If you are ill and have not registered with a doctor, or if it is weekend or fiesta time and your usual doctor is not available, go to the nearest Hospital Casualty Department. They are most helpful and you will always see a doctor fairly promptly. My experience on two occasions was a doctor and examination within seven minutes and a specialist within the hour. Take your form European Health Insurance Card, form E121 or form E106, your passport or your official Spanish health (SIP) card.
Where necessary doctors do make home calls; but you need to phone or get a friend to call at the surgery. We hear only good comments about the Spanish Health Service.
E106 The E106 is for people who have moved permanently to Spain but have not reached pensionable age, its period of effectiveness depends on the state of your past Nat Ins contributions record. The period of medical cover commences from the date you leave the UK. You must however apply and receive your E106 entitlement form before leaving the UK to ensure you are covered and to know what that cover entitles you to.
The E106 is available from the The Pension Service, Tyneview Park, Medical Benefits, Newcastle upon Tyne. NE98 1BA. England.
E121 Some male expats under pensionable age become eligible for medical cover as dependants on their wife reaching pensionable age. For details contact the above address
Note! If you are coming to live in Spain (even if just visiting but suffer from a particular illness), it is sensible to have a resume of your medical history translated into Spanish, in particular detailing any specific illnesses, drugs required or allergies. It is most sensible to have the basic bilingual details in writing always carried with you - please see my Bilingual SOS Form
Emergency Police - Fire - Ambulance. Telephone - just dial the number 112. They have multilingual operators available, just ask for the service you require and explain your problem.
English Speaking Medical Specialists
Finding a doctor who speaks English in your district is not always easy, although they appear to be more numerous in the Hospital Casualty Service than general practice. Ideally take along a friend with a knowledge of Spanish. Many doctors do not appear to keep notes at the surgery. Always take with you a list of the medicines/drugs etc that you are currently taking, as well as any x-ray or clinical test results you have obtained from the hospital. For any serious problems the Spanish doctors seem to refer you immediately to a Specialist in your district, usually within days or weeks not months.
For a list of english speaking practitioners, see under Medical Specialist Contacts
Please also see Charities in the General Contacts section
Telephone Alarm Systems. (Teleasistencia Domiciliaria)
Run by the Red Cross/Social Services and local Town Halls for people living alone and unwell or infirm enough to need assistance in an emergency. Telephone your local Town Hall or Red Cross. Gandia 962 873 861 or Alicante 96 525 4141.
Winter Fuel Payments (to qualify whilst living in Spain)
For British expats living in Spain the basic qualifications to claim for winter fuel payments from the British social services are:-
For advice on whether you qualify or not, write to:-
Winter Fuel Payments Centre
Office Hours 8:30am to 4:30pm UK time.
This office is part of the pension service, they are extremely helpful. Try to have your NH insurance number and personal details available when you phone or write as they need these details to access your records. It will save much time.
"Tell the Doctor" This is an excellent book, which covers most illnesses and their symptoms. If you have no friend who speaks Spanish the book can be a great help. Take it with you or write out the paragraph that describes your problem before you see your doctor.
Tell the Doctor, El Moreral 3, 03792 Parcent, Alicante.
More comprehensive books are available online or from larger booksellers, such as English & Spanish Medical Words & Phrases available from amazon.
There is also a medical English/Spanish translation service on the Web. Details in next update. Also see General Contacts - Translation Services.
In general as in England, most prescriptions for pensioners are free. However, prescriptions given by a hospital are different. They are in effect, not prescriptions but authority to purchase the medicines/antibiotics that you need, the charges may be reclaimed using the following procedure: Go to a farmacia where you must pay, then when you are able to see your own doctor, take the hospital’s notes to him/her, you will then be given the correct prescription/s. You take these back to the farmacia where you purchased them together with the bill and the labels on the medicines cardboard container, the pharmacist will then give you a refund. You must save the container that medicines or tablets came in, these contain the labels the chemist needs to get paid for the prescription. You may think it long winded but it works.
If you are not covered under the health service you will find that most drugs are far cheaper than in England.
Long Term Prescriptions
If you suffer from a medical problem that needs continuous medication without constant referral to the Doctor you can ask him for an authorisation form which you then take to the Local Health Authority Inspectors' office. In Gandia this is situated at the rear corner of the main Hospital in Avenida Germanias, and is clearly marked "Inspectorate" outside the building. This is the same office you go to for authorisation of special drugs requested for you by your doctor. In Gandia I found them most efficient, helpful and with a good understanding of English.
These details are specific to Gandia but the system is fairly standard throughout Spain.
It is advisable to register as early as possible. To do this you must have first registered with the police and obtained your NIE number.
If you are a pensioner residing in Spain go first to your local Town Hall they will offer you guidance.
The Social Seguridad/Pensionister office is situated in a road directly off the very large roundabout named Placa del Cardenal Sans y Fares ( this roundabout is unmistakable, it has many large Palm trees plus Swings and Seesaws for children) it is at the far end of Avenida de Republica Argentina, take the turning into Carrer Plus Ultra, the social security office is No 32. Here you will usually find a lady receptionist who speaks very good English and is most helpful. She registers your name and gives you a numbered ticket. Take a seat in reception. When your number is shown on the electronic register, take your forms to the numbered desk indicated (here it is particularly helpful if you have someone with you who speaks Spanish as most of the staff do not.) Here you get issued with your Medical/Benefits registration I/D card. This you then take to the main medical centre called an Ambulatorio. It is only a block away. Come out of the Social Securidad office and turn right for 50 yards then left, the Ambulatorio is only 200 yards up by the next cross roads.
Gandia Ambulatorio is not immediately easy to find as there is no notice visible on the outside of the building until you enter the porch area. The building (a quite large new one) is situated at the corner of Calle Prima de Maig and Avinguda de Beniopa. It is best identified by the large car park in front, space for 40 or more cars (Office times 08.00 to 21.00 except Friday closes 3 PM. Once inside the building the registration office is to the right on the ground floor. If possible ask for "Gracia" pronounced Grathia, Registration Deputy, she is extremely friendly, understands English and will help you. Show her your card/papers and say you need to register with a doctor. Dr Edu speaks very good English.
The registration desk is just inside the main door of the same building but to the left. Appointments are usually made for a day or two ahead but for urgent matters there is always a Doctor available though it may not be the one you registered with. It is advisable to keep your own record of visits and what was prescribed. If you have attended hospital, always take the hospital notes and any xrays with you when next visiting the doctor. Dr Edu (pronounced Ay-Doo) is at the far end on the next floor. If you have a mobility problem there is a lift.
Try not to be late for doctor or hospital appointments, names are usually called out by a loud speaker system. This is an area where we find the Spanish are fairly on time. If you miss hearing your name called and don’t speak Spanish, it can be confusing but don’t worry, there is always someone who will help you.
Hospitals and Doctors do not normally retain your Clinical test results, X-rays or Radiology Scan results. They are handed back to you, the patient. It is your responsibility to retain and store them safely in a dry place for future reference.
If you are admitted to hospital, the services provided include surgery, nursing care and catering. Pyjamas or nightdress are hospital issue.
My family's own experience of the Spanish health service has been of exemplary quality of service and equipment. My wife had a seriously broken ankle which then developed Septicaemia. She had over 4 weeks in Gandia hospital incurring two operations.
Church Hospital Visitors
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in hospital in Gandia or are without relations or friends you can ask for a visit from the English speaking hospital visitors. No, they don't talk religion, just call in for a friendly chat to break the monotony of being by yourself.
These are private practices. Many will offer you a free first visit to give you an estimate of the work required and the anticipated cost. We find the services excellent and the costs moderate. See Medical Specialist Contacts
Pensioners/Pensionistas. The Spanish Authorities take great care of their pensioners (often referred to as Amigos). Registering as a Pensionista gives you considerable benefits but I believe these vary somewhat depending on the Province in which you live. If registered anywhere in the Province of Valencia, these benefits include reduced train & bus fares, reduced admission to certain functions/events and admission to any Pensionistsa Club (the clubs are in most towns & villages) where generally meals and drinks are at very reasonable prices.
Showing your Pensionista membership card will ensure a warm welcome. You also become eligible for very reduced rate holidays at good class hotels via the Club Association.
To become a member in the Gandia area you need to collect a membership form from the Gandia Club's impressive premises based in Avenida Republica Argentina 52.