Health For Members

Will Britons resident in Spain still get healthcare after Brexit?

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Will Britons resident in Spain still get healthcare after Brexit?
Photo: everythingposs/Depositphotos"

This is one of the questions that is most concerning to Brits living in Spain, especially the huge number of residents who have retired here and are relying on free access to Spain’s health service.


If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, reciprocal healthcare arrangements will not automatically survive.

"We are in a situation now where many of our fellow-citizens living in Spain or France do not know in just over 40 days time whether they will have any health cover," Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons health select committee told the BBC earlier in February.

But the good news is that the UK has been exploring options with different member states, including Spain, to ensure UK nationals living in the EU can continue to access healthcare, even in a no deal scenario. 

The Spanish are also preparing measures on healthcare to be included in their Real Decreto - a new that will be passed in the coming days that contains contingency plans in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The expectation is that their proposal will reciprocate the offer already made to EU nationals living in the UK, which is that they can continue receiving their healthcare as now.

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EHIC card

The important thing to remember is that UK nationals who rely on their EHIC card if they fall ill will NOT be covered in case of a no-deal Brexit.

While that isn’t a worry for those who live in Spain and have a Spanish health card, it is something to warn visitors and relatives who might be coming to stay for any period of time.

The UK government have therefore advised that UK residents travelling to Spain after March 29th ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any medical treatment they might need whilst on holiday

Those who are living in Spain and are entitled to one can apply for a Spanish EHIC card that will mean they can access necessary healthcare in other EU countries, useful if you plan to pop over for a holiday in Italy or France.

An orderly Brexit

If the UK leaves the EU with Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, then after March 29th 2019 UK nationals in EU countries would continue to receive state healthcare on the same terms as they are currently entitled.

So those pensioners who have cover under the S1 scheme and those will be eligible for one when they retire, will continue to have their healthcare funded by the UK. For British workers in Spain who pay into the national health scheme then, the rules will remain as they are now. 

A transition period until December 2020 means Britons who move to Spain before that date will also be covered.

What the scenario will be for Brits who arrive in Spain after 2020 depends on future negotiations between the EU and the UK.

In the event of a No-Deal will the S1 for pensioners still be valid?

If you are working in Spain and paying social security contributions to Spain, you would still be able to access state-funded healthcare. And Brexit, deal or No-Deal, won’t change that.

But one of the biggest concerns is what will happen to UK pensioners living elsewhere in the EU who currently benefit from the S1 certificate, which means they are entitled to the same healthcare as nationals of the countries in which they live.

But it's not just for pensioners but also some others with exportable benefits, frontier workers and posted workers for an initial period.

In the event of a No-Deal Brexit then theoretically the S1 arrangement would automatically cease to apply but in Spain’s new Brexit contingency plan law – which is due to be signed on Friday March 1st – the Spanish government guarantees that the same conditions will be applied until December 2020.

Basically, if you were entitled to access Spanish healthcare based on an S1 certificate before March 29th 2019, then you can legitimately continue for another 21 months.

However, this has to be reciprocated by the British authorities towards Spanish citizens in UK or the measure will be suspended within two months.

More information: 

Check in regularly to the FCO website Living in Spain HERE and their Facebook page HERE

For more about healthcare in Spain check out the FCO guidance page HERE  and the NHS guidelines for travelling abroad HERE.

Visit the Spanish government dedicated Brexit information page HERE

READ MORE: This is what the Spanish are promising Brits if there is a no-deal Brexit


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