Healthcare in Portugal

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Portugal is located in the south-west of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Being in the westernmost part of mainland Europe, it is bordered by Spain on the east and north, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west. Madeira and Azores, both Atlantic archipelagos, are also part of Portugal.

Portuguese healthcare at a glance

A mix of public and private health service providers delivers Portuguese primary healthcare.

These include primary care centres integrated in the NHS, private sector primary care providers and professionals or groups of professionals with which the NHS contracts or develops cooperation agreements. Most primary healthcare is delivered by GPs/family doctors and primary care nurses in a primary care centre setting. Other providers include local family units and long-term care units. Secondary and tertiary care is mainly provided in hospitals. Some primary care centres also provide a limited range of specialist ambulatory care.

Standard of hospital care in Portugal

Good hospital care is available in Portugal, but facilities may be limited outside urban areas. Public hospitals offer services at costs lower than private hospitals, but may not maintain the same comforts as private facilities.

Hospitals are classified according to the services they offer:

  • Central hospitals provide highly specialised services with advanced technology and specialist human resources.
  • Specialised hospitals provide a broad range of specialised services.
  • District hospitals are located in the main administrative district and provide a range of specialist services.
  • District-level 1 hospitals only provide internal medicine services, surgery and one or two other basic specialties.   

EU citizens can access the public system free of charge for up to 90 days under EHIC regulations. Other visitors and non-EU citizens will have to pay for hospital treatment, cost of care in the private sector is high. Patients must register with a GP, and can choose among the available clinicians within a geographical area. Many patients prefer to go directly to emergency care services in hospitals or the private sector.

Short-term European Union visitors are given healthcare through the European Union reciprocal healthcare agreement. However, you are required to obtain the E111 form from your place of birth and then submit it to a hospital or clinic in Portugal where the medical attention is required.

For those who are planning to permanently move to Portugal and live as European Union residents, there is free basic healthcare; this includes doctor appointments and medication. Additionally, retired European Union Nationals who plan to permanently live in Portugal will need to have an E121 form. European Union citizens who are to retire before they qualify for state pensions can still avail of free health cover for two years if they obtain the E106 form. In the case of this temporary cover expiring before you reach retirement age, there are two possible options; one is to make a voluntary social security contribution, and the other is to apply for private health insurance. Furthermore, all non-European Union nationals should apply for private insurance in order to obtain medical treatment in Portugal.

If you are working in Portugal and you are contributing to the social security system, you are automatically entitled to free treatments across Portugal’s medical spectrum. However, you should remember that non-essential medicines are not given for free. You will be paying anywhere between 40% and 100% of the cost. Since most of the pharmacies in Portugal are managed by qualified chemists, a lot of medicines are easily obtained without a prescription.

Being a resident in Portugal, you are eligible for medical cards that provide free medical assistance from your doctor at your local health centre. In order to obtain the card, you are required to present your residency permit, along with your social security card to the health centre.

Living in Portugal

If you are moving to Portugal and you are not a citizen of the European Union, you are not entitled to utilise the public health system unless you are employed and paying social security through automatic deductions from your pay cheques. If you do so, you and your family are entitled to the services provided by the public health system. Otherwise, it is recommended that you purchase private health insurance.

Corporate international health insurance is also available.

Moving or living abroad?

View our international health insurance plans for individuals, professionals, students and families.