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Visiting Spain

Did you know that…

…only the people that usually reside in the UK and are in Spain on holiday or for a temporary stay have the right to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by the UK to access state healthcare in Spain?

If you need more information about the use of the EHIC as a tourist or temporary visitor in Spain, keep on reading…

If you would like to find out where the nearest local health centre or public hospital is in the region you are staying, please have a look at our map on Services Near You.


How the EHIC works

The UK European Health Insurance Card is valid for holidaymakers and people on a temporary stay who need to use the state health system while in another EEA country.

Any treatment provided is on the same terms as an insured national of the country you are visiting, so if a Spanish national is required to pay a fee towards their treatment in Spain, customers would also have to pay the same fee.

Always take out comprehensive travel insurance when travelling with your EHIC and make sure you declare any pre-existing conditions you may have.

If you need to go to the local health centre or nearest public hospital during your stay, don’t forget to take your EHIC and passport with you.

In case of any emergency, call 112 or go to the nearest public hospital.

Who is entitled to the UK EHIC?

People on holiday or on a temporary visit to Spain, who ordinarily reside in the UK.

If you are on a holiday or a temporary stay in Spain e.g. you have a second home for a few months of the year, but still consider that you live mainly in the UK, you can use the UK European Health Insurance Card in Spain.

If your EHIC has expired, make sure to renew it online here before leaving the UK if you are going on holiday or a temporary visit to Spain.

If you are a UK state pensioner / insured person with a registered S1 / E121 in Spain, the UK EHIC is only for use outside of Spain when on holiday within the European Union.

If you are already in Spain without an EHIC and you need a doctor, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from the Overseas Healthcare Team. You (or the billing department at the local health centre or state-run hospital) can request this by sending an email to OVERSEAS.HEALTHCARE@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK with the following information:

  • Full name;
  • Date of Birth;
  • National Insurance number;
  • Dates of hospital treatment (including admission and discharge);
  • Email address of the hospital billing department (“facturación” – if you are requesting the PRC yourself).

What cover does the EHIC give you?

The EHIC entitles you to all medically-necessary treatment for the duration of your temporary stay.

What is considered medically-necessary treatment? This is decided by the doctor and will be given to you on the same basis as an insured resident in Spain, taking into account the nature of the treatment and the length of your stay.

Please read the information from the EU on Necessary Care here. There is also a Spanish version  available here in case you would need to take it with you to the local health centre or public hospital for reference.

It can include routine or specialist treatment and the monitoring of ongoing conditions, as long as the treatment can’t wait until you get home. You can also get dialysis and oxygen treatment, although you must organise this in advance of your trip with the public health authority that covers the area you are travelling to.

Can I use it to see a private doctor?

No! The card is only recognised in state hospitals and health centres.

What rules apply to students?

If students have come to spend time in Spain as part of their UK studies, then the UK European Health Insurance Card is the correct form of health cover.

This means that you are entitled to all necessary healthcare in Spain on presentation of your European Health Insurance Card. Apply for an EHIC online before leaving the UK here. You are entitled to use the EHIC for the length of your course. For more general information please visit the NHS Choices page.

Students on A-level courses:

If studying for your A-levels in Spain is not compulsory, you will be eligible for a UK issued EHIC for the first 12 months of the course only. After that, you will need to  obtain healthcare cover from the country you are studying in (Spain) or take out private insurance.

If you are eligible for an EHIC, you will need to apply by post from the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle (address below), after downloading the application form here and enclose the following information with the completed application form.

  • Address where studying overseas;
  • Period of Study;
  • Details of the qualification that he / she will be studying for.

NHS Business Services Authority
European Health Insurance Card
EHIC applications
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Pre-arranged treatments


If you need to receive oxygen therapy during a temporary visit to Spain, you must request it in advance, in writing, from the Spanish authorities. You should send this request at least one month before you are due to travel.

The template letter, available to download on this page, has been designed for you to send to the Spanish authorities, complete with the details of your personal requirements. Please complete the letter using the guidance notes.  An example letter for ‘Mr Jones’, showing you how the template should be completed, is available to download.

The template letter should be sent, by fax, to the relevant Spanish authority. Along with the template letter, you also should send the following:

  • an enlarged copy of the European Health Insurance Card;
  • a clear photocopy of the photo page of your passport;
  • a letter or prescription from your GP or specialist giving full details of your oxygen requirements.

Downloadable Documents:
Once you have sent the oxygen request, you must then follow up with the relevant oxygen provider to confirm your request has been processed.

What if I want to travel to Spain just to get treatment?

If you want to travel to Spain just to get treatment, then you can’t use the EHIC. Instead you have to request an S2 form issued by your local health authority in the UK (speak to NHS England or your Local Health Board if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) or use the Cross Border Directive.

S2 route

The S2 (formerly E112) route entitles you to pre-planned state-funded treatment in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. In this case, treatment will be provided under the same conditions of care and payment as for residents in the country you are visiting. This could mean you have to pay a percentage of the costs personally. For more information, visit the NHS Choices website here.

How to apply: In order to obtain an S2 form, you will need to apply for funding prior to treatment. The NHS will decide whether or not to approve your application and will need to be satisfied that:

  • a UK NHS consultant has recommended in writing that you be treated in the other EEA country, and that a full clinical assessment has been carried out to demonstrate that the treatment will meet your specific needs;
  • the costs of sending you abroad for treatment are justified. The health commissioner is responsible for spending money efficiently and fairly, in the interest of all the patients they look after;
  • the treatment is available under the other country’s state health scheme;
  • you’re entitled to treatment under the NHS.

If NHS England or your Local Health Board (if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) approves your application, you will be issued with an S2 form.

You will then need to check with the treatment provider in Spain if they need any further documentation or if there are other arrangements to be made in advance.

What if I’m pregnant and want to give birth in Spain?

You have to apply for form S2 through the Overseas Healthcare Team. The EHIC won‘t cover you. For more information on giving birth abroad, please click here.

EU Cross Border Directive

This directive allows patients to seek treatment abroad, pay the costs up front, and then seek reimbursement from their country of residence upon their return. You would be entitled to apply for treatment under the Cross-Border Directive as long as the treatment is considered medically necessary and would be made available to you under the state system in Spain. It covers both treatment given in state-run hospitals and by private service providers. Please note that you will only be reimbursed up to the amount the operation would have cost if you were to have been treated by the NHS in the UK.

Treatment may need to be pre-arranged and authorised by both the UK and Spanish health authorities in advance. For more information on the EU Cross Border Directive, please click here. If you are travelling from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you will need to contact the appropriate authority to enquire whether your planned treatment needs pre-authorisation.

Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality



Further national contact points, including that of the UK, can be found in the leaflet here.



Any treatment provided is on the same terms as an insured national of the country you are visiting, so if a Spanish national is required to pay a fee towards their treatment in Spain, customers would also have to pay the same fee. In Spain, people pay between 10% and 60% towards prescriptions. However, if you are of working age, you will need to pay 50% on prescriptions with your UK EHIC and if you are a pensioner you will pay 10%. Pensioners should not be required to provide proof of their pensioner status.

If you are currently taking regular prescriptions in the UK and will need to acquire more during your stay in Spain, please make sure you request an EU cross border prescription from your GP in the UK before travelling. Find out what certain criteria needs to be on your prescription form from the NHS Choices website here. If you are already in Spain and forgot to do this, please go to the nearest local health centre with your passport and EHIC and request a prescription from the GP.

For more information on medications subsidised by the public healthcare system in Spain, their availability and costs, please read the information here.

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