What are the differences in speed and accessibility between Spain’s public and private healthcare systems, particularly in emergency situations and cancer-related care?


What are your experiences with Spain’s public and private healthcare systems?
Is it quick with private insurance? If there’s an emergency, cancer diagnosis or surgery is needed, is a public hospital where you would go and be seen immediately or quickly?


These are the answers of some Facebook group members:

”The physician here (I work for the public system in Madrid) both public and private systems work very well and have very qualified physicians. It’s not a quality issue. However, the public system does see a lot more patients hence there is a backlog for many elective procedures. Ten months for an elective MRI or to be seen by certain specialists was common, in Madrid though they have been implementing strategies to reduce the waitlist so I would say the majority of things are now seen within a few months. I have both public and private, I use the private for elective stuff as it gives me more flexibility, purely by choice and for the luxury of scheduling appointments at my leisure. However, if anything serious happened to me or my loved ones I would take them to a public hospital 100%. Public hospitals as a general rule tend to be teaching hospitals, there is more research, more resources and more staff. For cancer diagnosis, there is a separate pathway and they see patients immediately”

”It depends a lot on where you live. In Valencia, most of my appointments take less than 2 weeks. Only the ophthalmologist and the allergist took more than that and it was less than 2 months”

”There are waiting lists in all public services even in private just because they are so busy, but if waiting lists are long in the public system they give you the option to go private and public system pays”

”It does happen in Madrid. You can choose the public hospital that has the least wait, and you have the option of concertos that are public financing but are run privately so function like private hospitals. Yes, there is a backlog – especially after the pandemic, but there are ways around it. The problem is most patients aren’t aware of these loopholes. I know because I work at a public hospital”

”Happens all time in comunidad valenciana. Personal experience and that of family members, over 6 months wait they give the option to have it done privately or keep waiting”

”But when you got a health system with senior doctors, consultants and all scans/tests working 24hrs/7days a week /365 days a year and multiple hospitals per population centre and health centres in nearly all villages/towns with over 10,000 inhabitants, how can you fault a system.

Yes needs 90k more nurses and 30k more doctors to be at nominal capacity but that’s a government problem not a lack of staff.

Policy causes the issues, with most Spanish health staff working initially abroad. 15% of doctors and nurses in the UK are Spanish”

”Most of my Spanish friends who can afford it also have private insurance in addition to the public system for convenience, shorter waiting times and no referrals needed for specialists. They do say however that if you have something really serious and long-term, the care in the public systems can be better. I’ve had four hospitalizations and surgeries with my private insurance and the care here has been outstanding. So much better than anything I’ve ever experienced in the US”

”The first and main criterion is your status in Spain, if you are not officially resident then you will likely not be covered by the Spanish health system. To get the best and fastest diagnosis/treatment you would need to pay privately or through a recognised and accredited health insurance scheme. I was diagnosed with bladder cancer three years ago and it cost three hundred euros just for the initial diagnosis and a further nine thousand five hundred for an immediate operation and a one-night stay in a private hospital. To get the important ongoing treatment I had to return to my home country”

”We have both. Health insurance premiums are so inexpensive in Spain, it is perfectly feasible to have both options, for far less than the cost of insurance in the US”

”Y’all I have access to public healthcare through residency and have tried to apply to private insurance here to be seen sooner by specialists (I’m 30 yrs old and I struggle with chronic migraine/have a brain adenoma) but they do a questionnaire with you about preexisting conditions before selling you a policy and they will either straight up reject you or will write an exception on your plan saying that whatever you have preexisting is not covered. What private insurance are y’all getting that doesn’t have that? Because I get straight up rejected by everyone I’ve tried to get. Thanks for any advice I live in Galicia if that is useful info”

”We had private insurance with our residency in Spain. I was able to make same-day appointments for immediate needs in a small town in Andalusia. My husband was able to see a specialist in urology pretty frequently. We usually had to drive to the town half hour away for the more specialty doctors. It was good. The only issue I had was no one would answer any phones. I would have to go to the office to make an appointment”

”When I had my surgery last April 11, 2023, it took me a week before the procedure. Maybe because it was semana santa. This is under Adeslas. With regard to consultation. It was easy to do everything. From Ct scan til lab tests and clearance”

”We have accessed private healthcare (Sanitas) several times in Barcelona for both regular and emergency care, including hospitalization for my son. I have found it to be efficient with short or reasonable wait times for appointments and visits. Added perks: I learned that our policy would have covered emergency care when I was travelling in Portugal and broke some ribs, although I didn’t use it. And, I know it will cover us for trips to our homeland (USA), but haven’t used that either”

”Added perks: I learned that our policy would have covered emergency care when I was travelling in Portugal and broke some ribs, although I didn’t use it. And, I know it will cover us for trips to our homeland (USA), but haven’t used that either

”I have a DKV policy I had severe abdominal pain last month excruciating and blood in my pee so spoke to my insurance agency they looked up a urologist and booked for 7 days. Agency advised same day go to A&E. So the same day a monday went A&E was tested and scanned and found the kidney was saturated and swollen as 2 large kidney stones lodged in the tube. Quiron Hospital gave a pain management prescription and booked their urologist for Thursday squeezed me in as he was fully booked. Discussed the situation and put me down for surgery the next day Friday. Released from the hospital Saturday. I also use public health as I have a bowel disease excluded from the private policy, there are two gastro doctors at the public hospital 10 months is the wait time. The local GP on rare occasions puts me down for emergency cancellation to see a gastro specialist usually 3 to 4 months then. The thing with my privacy policy is I arranged it thru an agency that helps me and they seem to have some clout with the insurer and the agency knows the ropes in getting the best out of the policy. They are an agency that offers the best personal service. I Have had 3 medical insurance companies in 20 years go for the higher quotes as this translates to fewer exclusions in small print and better cover. Anyway having this agency has made all difference for me so cannot praise them enough”

”I’ve been in both the public and private healthcare system here. I’ve found the waiting times in the public okay, no longer than 3 months for an initial appointment, which is better than my experience in the UK. I did use the private hospital for some tests, I had a bad experience in Quirónsalud, they just want your money. So I’d recommend researching which private hospital and asking for recommendations. I’ve found some doctors in the healthcare system pressed for time and as such sometimes don’t want to help. But as someone mentioned above, doctors work in public and private alongside each other commonly”

In conclusion, according to Spainguru Facebook group members, in Spain, both the public and private healthcare systems have their pros and cons. The public system may have longer wait times for elective procedures and specialist appointments due to high patient volume, but it excels in providing immediate care for serious conditions like cancer. Private insurance offers shorter waiting times, convenience, and no need for referrals to see specialists. Individuals often choose to have both public and private coverage for a wider range of options. Availability and quality of healthcare services may vary by region. Overall, having both systems provides flexibility in managing healthcare needs.