Healthcare in Barcelona

Choosing to reside in Spain (or anywhere else in the world) involves significantly more than simply deciding where to stay. Factors like your and your family’s health also need to be considered, and for that reason we take a look at healthcare in Spain and how it pertains to your residence in this international city.

When it comes to healthcare in Spain, the system consists of both private and public healthcare, and some hospitals and centres offer both private- and state services. Although private healthcare insurance isn’t required for medical treatment in Spain, it does speed up the process, especially for non-emergency procedures.


Spain’s public healthcare system is considered among the best in Europe, with the country having the sixth highest rate of doctors per inhabitant in the world. While 40% of Spain’s hospitals are publicly owned, the rest are private.

In order for you and your dependents to become part of Spain’s public healthcare system, you need to contribute to the social security system. Each autonomous region manages its own local healthcare system. In order to qualify for public healthcare, you must:

  • Be a resident in Spain
  • Pay social security contributions, either through employment or as a freelancer (*children, pensioners, pregnant women and receivers of certain state benefits are exceptions to this rule).

*Important to note: Any pregnant woman in Spain is automatically eligible for free treatment on the public health system, irrespective of her nationality or legal status. Children younger than 18 years also have the right to free healthcare in Spain, regardless of the circumstances.

Even though non-residents don’t qualify for universal healthcare, a pay-in scheme (called the ‘Convenio Especial’) is available. To qualify for this, you need to be ‘empadronado’ with your local town hall and pay a monthly fee.

Registering with a doctor in Barcelona

The Catalan Health Services, CatSalut, offers free and subsidised treatments to those with a health card. Although dental care in Spain is private, certain preventative treatments for children are free in Catalunya.

As a resident in Barcelona, you should apply for your TSI (Targeta Sanitaria Individual) health card, which is what you will take to your local doctor’s surgery or CAP (Centro Ambulatorio Publico) to book appointments.

You will have to be:

  • Working in Spain, or
  • Be declared a dependent of a spouse/partner.

Should you qualify for public healthcare in Spain, then so do your dependents. To apply, you will need to go to your local Social Security Office in Barcelona, where you will receive the documents to take to your local CAP. Even if you are not working, but have residency in Spain, you may be allowed healthcare, which is what you will find out from the Social Security Office.

For your application you will require:

  • Your passport DNI or NIE (see: How to obtain your Spanish NIE)
  • Empadronamiento (official proof of address no older than 3 months)
  • Libro de Familia or proof of dependency on spouse (if it’s for a child or dependent).

The Sanitat health line can be phoned on 902 111 444 (or 061) with your postcode for more information on the CAP at which you are allowed to register. Should all your required documents be in order, you will receive a temporary health card by your CAP (your permanent TSI will be sent at a later date by mail).

Your local CAP clinic

Every CAP has a home-visiting- and emergency service during weekdays. For medical help outside these hours (and during weekends and public holidays), check with your CAP where any emergency CAC (Centro de Atencio Continuada) is located. Any follow-up treatment specified by your doctor is usually obtained at the CAC.


If you are not paying social security contributions, you can take out private health insurance, which provides a variety of advantages, including:

  • Immediate access to specialists
  • The possibility to choose specialists (including English-speaking ones)
  • Less waiting time for appointments, operations and treatments
  • More comfortable facilities.

The monthly contribution amount will depend on your age, sex and any pre-existing health conditions. Healthcare companies offer different packages according to members’ needs, ranging from low-cost simple options to comprehensive coverage. A lot of them also offer a basic plan for people with access to public healthcare, but who require extras such as dental and blood tests. These plans are generally cheaper as they don’t cover surgery or hospitalisation.