Health For Members

How to get access to public healthcare in another region of Spain

The Local Spain
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How to get access to public healthcare in another region of Spain
You are guaranteed emergency treatment if you're a Spanish resident in another region of Spain. (Photo by German LAMA / AFP)

Find out how you can get medical care in another region of Spain if you're temporarily staying there for work, vacation or studies.


Spain’s General Health Law of 1986 recognises that all citizens and foreign residents have the right to public health care. It states that "health care services will be provided under conditions of effective equality" which means that you have the right to access medical care in any region of Spain.

Obviously, there are a few caveats to the above law, primarily whether you pay into the Spanish social security system or have the convenio especial. If not, it’s most likely you will have private health insurance, which will have its own rules about seeing a doctor in another region of Spain.

Those who have access to the Spanish public healthcare system include:

- Pensioners resident in Spain, including those from a country that has a mutual agreement. This includes all countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). They must also have a permanent residence certificate.

- Employees and autónomos (self-employed) workers registered with social security and paying into the system.

- Residents who get certain social security benefits in Spain.

- Those who previously registered for social security payments, but whose entitlement has now expired.

- Those whose spouse pays into the social security system.

- Children and other dependents of those paying into the social security system.

- Those recently divorced or separated from a partner who is registered with social security and paying in. 

Typically you’ll register for your Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual card in the region in which you live, but what if you’re temporarily going to be in another region either for work, an extended vacation or going to stay with friends or family for a while?


In this case, as mentioned above, you still have the right to get medical care, although you will need to register if you want to see a doctor, otherwise, you'll usually only be able to access emergency care. 

To do this, you will need to apply for what is called a Tarjeta de displazado temporal or temporary displacement card. In some regions, it may have a different name. In Madrid for example it’s called a Documento de Asistencia a Desplazados (Assistance Document for Displaced Persons or DAD).

This is a provisional card that enables you to be assigned a primary care doctor at the health centre nearest to where you will be staying.

It’s specifically for those who are temporarily going to be in another region of Spain. Note, it’s not really worth getting one if you’re just going for a few days or week, it’s designed for those spending several months or will be in another region for the summer period.

If you’re moving to another region of Spain permanently or are going to be there for more than a year, you can apply for the normal health card for each region.

READ ALSO: How to apply for a public health card in Spain


How do I apply for a tarjeta de desplazado temporal?

How you apply for the card will depend on which region you’re temporarily going to. There are a handful of regions that will enable you to apply online, but for most, you will need to go in person.


You simply need to go to the medical centre nearest to your new temporary accommodation and request a temporary displacement card. Administrative staff will be able to give you the correct forms to fill out.

You will need to bring your ID or foreign residency card, plus your normal health card from the region you usually live in. You may also need to show some proof of your new address.


Some regions allow you to apply for the displacement card online. For the regions that do, you will need to have a digital certificate in order to be able to properly identify yourself. If your region is not mentioned, then it’s best to go in person.


You can visit the following web page to apply. 


You can find out more and fill out the application online here.


To apply for the card online you can visit this page.


How long is the card valid for?

The duration of the card depends on each different region, for example, it can be from three months in some and up to a year in others.

Regions typically guarantee health service for three months (as is the case in Madrid), but you can extend your card for another three.

In Catalonia, for example, it’s different in each town, so it will depend on where you’re planning on staying. While in Andalusia, it can be anywhere from one month up to a year.

In special cases, the health authorities may agree to extend it further. If you’re going to be in another region for a year or more, it’s best that you register on the padrón in your new region and apply for a health card there as normal.

If you’re a student for example and you’re going to live in another region for university for a few years, there are special displacement cards that last longer.

Can I get medication in another region?

If you have a chronic illness and need to take regular medication, you will need to speak to your normal doctor before you leave. They will be able to tell you if you can get your medicine in another region or whether they need to give you extra before you go.

If medication is prescribed by your new temporary doctor, then you should have no problem getting it from pharmacies in that region.

Will I be able to see a specialist in another region?

You will generally not be able to see a specialist in your new temporary region, but it will depend on specific circumstances.

Waiting lists to see specialists in Spain can take several months, so usually it’s not worth your new doctor putting you on the list if you’re going to be leaving before you’re seen.

It could, however, be down to the discretion of your doctor, your case, and the type of specialist you need, so it may be possible.

If you need urgent emergency medical care from a specialist, you will usually be able to be treated.  


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