Detailed guide: Healthcare for UK nationals visiting Spain

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For most UK nationals, EHICs may not be valid from 1 January 2021.

Make sure you take out travel insurance with medical cover for your trip.

You may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for your healthcare if you do not get health cover with your travel insurance.

Visits to Spain that start in 2020 and end in 2021

If youre visiting Spain over the Christmas and New Year period, your UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you leave Spain to either:

  • return to the UK
  • visit another EU country

Using an EHIC from 1 January 2021

Some people can get a new UK-issued EHIC which will remain valid for visits that begin from 1 January 2021.

Youll be able to apply if youre:

  • receiving a UK State Pension or some other exportable benefits and living in the EU before the end of 2020
  • a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before the end of 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • an EU national living in the UK before the end of 2020
  • a dependant of one of the above

If you have a registered S1, E121, E106 or E109 form you can apply now for your new UK EHIC on the NHS website.

UK students using an EHIC

If youre in Spain on 31 December 2020 because youre studying there, you need to apply for a new EHIC.

This entitles you to medically necessary state healthcare until the end of your course.

From 1 January 2021, your UK EHIC will only be valid in Spain. Make sure you have travel insurance with healthcare cover for the duration of your course.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

An EHIC covers state healthcare, not private treatment.

With an EHIC you can get medically necessary treatment in Spain on the same basis as a Spanish citizen. This means that youll get healthcare services for free or at a reduced cost.

An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance it does not cover everything, such as mountain rescue or being flown back to the UK (medical repatriation). Make sure you have both before you travel to Spain.

You may need to pay in full for treatment if you do not have an EHIC.

How to apply

Apply for an EHIC for free on the NHS website.

How to use it

Show your EHIC when you visit any state hospital or doctor. You cannot use an EHIC for private healthcare.

Find out what an EHIC covers in Spain.

Find an English-speaking doctor in Spain.

Replacing a lost or stolen EHIC

Youll need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) if your EHIC is lost or stolen abroad.

Call the Overseas Healthcare Services. This is part of the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA).

NHS Overseas Healthcare Services
Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 1999
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Travelling with a health condition

Buy travel insurance with healthcare cover for your condition. Your EHIC will cover medically necessary treatment.

Read the Money and Pensions Advice Service guidance for buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Bring any documents about your health condition or what medication youre taking.

If you need to have treatment while youre in Spain, you may need to pre-arrange it. For example, if you need oxygen treatment or dialysis.

Speak to your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel.

Getting prescriptions

You can use a UK prescription to get medicine from pharmacies in Spain. In some areas a pharmacy may request a prescription issued by a Spanish GP.

Prescription medicines are not free in Spain. With an EHIC you get a reduced rate, but youll still pay:

  • 50% of the prescription price
  • 10% of the prescription price if you have a UK State Pension ? you may need to show proof that youre a pensioner to pay this rate

These prescription charges are non-refundable.

If you need oxygen therapy during your visit

You can get oxygen therapy with an EHIC, but you need to arrange this before you travel.

You must send a written request to the Spanish health authority in the area you plan to visit at least one month before you travel.

Find out how to request oxygen therapy in Spain. This guide includes:

  • a letter template in Spanish that you can download and complete
  • a list of contact details for Spanish health authorities

Bringing medicine with you

You need a letter to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if it contains a controlled drug. You may need to show this at the border when youre entering or leaving the UK and Spain.

You may also need a licence for controlled drugs if:

  • your trip is longer than 3 months
  • youre travelling with more than 3 months supply

Read more about travelling with controlled medicines.

You should also contact your nearest Spanish consulate before you travel to find out if you need to apply for a Spanish licence.

Travelling to have planned treatment

You cannot use an EHIC for non-urgent planned treatment. For example, if youre going abroad to give birth.

You can apply for NHS-funding to have planned treatment. There are 2 ways to do this:

  • S2 route
  • EU directive route

Read the NHS guide to seeking medical treatment abroad for more information on the S2 or EU directive funding routes.

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