Healthcare in Spain: the steps to apply for the S1 form for UK state pensioners

The S1 form allows UK state pensioners resident in Spain to get access to public health care. Read on to find out all about it and how to apply.

Healthcare in Spain: the steps to apply for the S1 form for UK state pensioners
Image: pasja1000/Pixabay

There are different ways to make sure you’re covered for healthcare in Spain, but the main ways are by paying social security, either if you’re working or you’re self employed.

But what if you are retired, earning a UK state pension are are not paying into the Spanish social security system? 

If you fall into this category, you can apply for the S1 form, in order for your health care to be covered, without having to get private insurance. 

What is the S1 form?

The S1 form is essentially proof of entitlement to health cover in Spain, which is funded by the UK government.

The healthcare certificate entitles you and any dependents to healthcare in another EU country, on the same basis as Spanish citizens. It’s only available to those who are non-UK residents.

The S1 system is still valid even though the UK has left the EU, however it is only available to those who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and were resident in Spain before January 1st 2021. 

Who is eligible?

If you’re a Spanish resident, but a UK state pensioner and have already started receiving your pension, you will be eligible for the S1. This is the main group of people who qualify, however there are a few others, read on to find out more. 

Another way that you could be entitled to cover with the S1 form is if you’re a frontier worker, where you work in one country but live in another. You should contact the HMRC to find out if you’re eligible this way.

You may also be entitled to the S1 form if you’re a flight attendants or work on a ship at sea, under certain circumstances.

If you are eligible, you can also fill out separate S1 form for any of your dependants, if they are not eligible for public health cover in Spain any other way.   

How to apply for the S1 form?

If you have a UK state pension, you can get an S1 application form by calling the Overseas Healthcare Services, which is part of the NHS Business Services Authority.

The number to call is +44 (0)191 218 1999 and you can call anytime Monday to Friday 8am-6pm or Saturday from 9am-3pm (UK time).

What to do once you have your S1 form?

When you have your S1 form from the NHS, you must register it at your local INSS social security office in Spain. You can also register is via the online INSS website here

The INSS will then give you a social security number and certificate, which you can take to your local health centre and apply for a health card.

You will also need other documents to get your health card, including ID cards, residency certificates, and padrón certificate. Read more on how to apply for your public health care card in Spain, which explains all the details.

Ensure that you still keep your S1 form however, as you can also use it to access health care back in the UK when you go and visit, if need be.


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UV Index: Where in Spain you have to take extra care with sun exposure

We all know that too much sun can cause health problems, but there are particular places in Spain where the UV Index is higher than others and you need to be particularly careful. Read on to find out where.

UV Index: Where in Spain you have to take extra care with sun exposure

Spaniards and indeed foreign residents in Spain spend a lot of time in the sun, particularly at the beach in summer, and sunbathing is a popular pastime.

While it’s obviously not a good idea to be sunbathing during the hottest part of the day anywhere in Spain, there are some places that are worse than others.

When the sun shines, it emits radiation and one of the most dangerous is ultraviolet radiation. While ultraviolet radiation is not harmful in low doses, it can cause skin damage after long and intense exposure.

The UV Index measures the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and alerts people to the risk that the sun poses to our health on a daily basis.

The Canary Islands have the highest UV Index out of all the regions in Spain, meaning that if you live there or are thinking of going on holiday there, you should take extra precautions in the sun.

A UV Index level of 8 to 10, as well as anything above 10 is considered to be very high and extremely dangerous.

The Canary Islands consistently record UV Index levels 2 or 3 points above the rest of Spain and in some parts of the day up to four points above.

UV Index levels change throughout the day and reach their highest from about 1pm – 4pm, when you have to take extra care.

For example, on Friday August 12th the UV Index for the hottest part of the day in most of mainland Spain hovers around 7-9, whereas in the Canary Islands it reaches 11-13.

According to Canarian dermatologist Dr. Paula Aguayo, one in five canaries could be at risk from skin cancer throughout their lives due to inadequate sun protection.  

She recommends that people in the Canary Islands avoid the sun between midday and 6pm, use broad-spectrum sunscreens which protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation and a sunscreen with a factor not lower than 30. “ In fact, it is preferable to use factor 50,” she says.

The regions in Spain that typically have the least amount of UV are located along the northern coast, places such as Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias and the Basque Country.

When the UV Index is anywhere from 6 upwards, experts recommend:

  • Avoiding direct sun exposure during the hottest part of the day and always keeping to the shade.
  • Wearing sunglasses with adequate UV protection as well as a hat.
  • Covering your skin and applying sunscreen with a high factor to the parts that are exposed. It is recommended to put cream on in the house before you go out into the sun and to always reapply it after swimming, even if it’s a waterproof sunscreen.
  • Drinking lots of water – In the sun and heat, the skin becomes dehydrated and this aggravates skin aging caused by ultraviolet rays.

Be sun safe even on cloudy days

The UV Index is usually lower on cloudy days, but even so, solar radiation can penetrate through the clouds.  According to scientists, even if the sky is completely covered, 40 percent of the sun’s radiation can still reach earth, so even if it doesn’t feel so hot, you still need to remember your sun protection.

Take extra care in the mountains  

Those heading to the mountains instead of the coast this summer should take extra care from the sun as the UV Index can reach its highest in places of high altitude and you risk being exposed to more radiation.

Mount Teide on the Canary Island of Tenerife and the highest mountain in Spain is one of the worst places for getting sunburnt. Up here, in summer there are around 12 hours of sun a day.