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Healthcare in Portugal, including Madeira

On this page you will find information on the healthcare access you're entitled to and how to get it whether you're:

  • moving to, or already living in Portugal (including as a student)
  • visiting Portugal, for example on holiday

Your options for accessing healthcare in Portugal may change if there is a no-deal Brexit. You need to make the best decisions for your circumstances if you are moving to, visiting or living in Portugal.

Living in Portugal after Brexit

You should be ready for possible changes to your access to healthcare if there is a no-deal Brexit and you are a UK national living in Portugal.

You should review your access to healthcare now. There may be a gap or permanent change in how you access healthcare if there is no deal and no agreements with Portugal in place.

If you are a UK national living in Portugal and accessing healthcare based on your residence, your access to healthcare will not change when the UK leaves the EU.

If you are a current S1 form holder, a posted worker or student using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you should be ready for possible changes to how you access healthcare, if there is no deal and no alternative arrangements with Portugal in place. This guide will be updated when we have further information about any arrangements between the 2 countries.

You need to make the best decisions for your circumstances and consider:

  • registering to live in Portugal
  • registering for healthcare under the local rules and legislation of Portugal
  • buying comprehensive health insurance while you are applying for residency or if you are not eligible for local schemes

Make sure you have all the right documentation and it is up to date.

Access to healthcare in Portugal is residence-based, so residents will continue to access state healthcare after the UK leaves the EU. Once registered to live in Portugal, you can register with your local state-run health centre (centro de saúde) and get a healthcare user's number (cartão de utente). Show this number whenever you need to access healthcare.

You should not expect to be able to use NHS services for free when visiting the UK if you live in Portugal and are not currently eligible for a UK-issued S1 form or EHIC. You should take out appropriate travel insurance when visiting the UK, as you would when visiting any other country.

If you are living in Portugal before exit day, you may use NHS services in England, Scotland and Wales without charge when visiting the UK after exit day if you:

  • have a UK-issued S1 form
  • have a UK-issued EHIC
  • would have been eligible for the UK to fund your healthcare access, if exit day had not occurred

This will remain the case after exit day.

If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test you will be able to access NHS care without charge.

Visiting Portugal after Brexit

You should prepare for possible changes to your access to healthcare if there is a no-deal Brexit and you are a UK national travelling to Portugal.

If you're using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

Portuguese authorities have published legislation that explains that UK nationals who are temporarily staying in Portugal maintain the right to access healthcare in the National Health Service (SNS), if they present a valid UK passport. The EHIC would no longer be accepted. These measures would remain in place until the end of 2020 or until a further arrangement is reached with the Portuguese authorities.

Check your insurance has the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, talk to your GP and insurer about how to get the right cover, and how this affects your travel.

This guide will be updated when there is more information on travelling to or living in Portugal after Brexit.

Healthcare in Portugal until the UK leaves the EU

Finding help in an emergency

Call 112 if you have a serious life-threatening emergency. This number is free of charge.

Visiting Portugal

Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance if you're planning to visit Portugal. The government always advises UK nationals to take out comprehensive travel insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention. You may be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC.

Your EHIC does not cover you for private treatment so you will need to make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork.

Pre-existing health conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before you visit Portugal. You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have, so that you can get the cover you need.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Take any documents about your health condition or medication with you.

Your EHIC will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

Your EHIC may not be valid if there is a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on whether the UK has an arrangement with Portugal and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

If you are travelling to have planned medical treatment, read our guide to seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Dentists

Dental treatment is not covered by the state healthcare system unless it's an emergency.

Hospitals

You'll need to be referred by a doctor for any specialist hospital treatment.

Make sure you're referred to a state hospital as only these provide treatment with an EHIC. However, you may still have to make a small contribution. This is known as moderating fees (taxa moderadora).

Even in a state hospital you'll need a valid EHIC. Make sure you're not treated as a private patient.

Prescriptions

Prescription costs are subsidised and visitors can expect to pay for their medication.

Bringing your own medicines to Portugal

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad.

Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

You can visit the GOV.UK website for more information about travelling with controlled medicines.

Living in Portugal

The healthcare system in Portugal consists of a National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS), a social security scheme, and voluntary private health insurance.

You'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a Portuguese national if you're going to work in Portugal and make national insurance contributions.

You must be working or be a dependant of someone who's working in Portugal to get a Portuguese Social Security number (NISS).

If you are registered with Portuguese Social Security, you should apply for a Portuguese-issued EHIC for visits outside of Portugal to another EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Your Portuguese-issued EHIC will be valid in the UK until the UK leaves the EU.

You should also buy comprehensive travel insurance to cover anything not covered by your Portuguese EHIC or for travel to countries outside the EU.

S1 certificate

You may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK if you live in Portugal and receive:

  • an exportable UK State Pension
  • a contribution-based Employment Support Allowance
  • another exportable benefit

You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate.

An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Portugal. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

It is possible to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU. If you are eligible for an S1 certificate you should apply now. It is important to have all the right documentation and that it is up to date.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:

  • receive certain UK benefits, such as a UK State Pension
  • are employed by a UK body or firm (you are a posted or frontier worker
  • are dependant of someone who has an S1 certificate

You can apply for an S1 certificate through the Business Services Authority.

If you receive a UK State Pension, you can apply for your certificate via the Overseas Healthcare Service on +44 (0) 191 218 1999 (option 5).

You can find more information under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on GOV.UK. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides information about what UK and Portuguese benefits are available to UK nationals living in Portugal.

UK posted workers

If you're a worker posted to Portugal by a UK company, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK.

You can find out more from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

Non-workers

If you're legally resident in Portugal, you can register with your local state-run health centre (centro de saúde) and get a healthcare user's number (cartão de utente). Show this number whenever you need to access healthcare.

Students in Portugal

If you're a UK resident studying in Portugal your EHIC will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

Portuguese no-deal legislation explains that if there is a no-deal Brexit, you can access necessary medical care in Portugal by presenting a valid UK passport. The EHIC would no longer be accepted.

The government always advises UK citizens to take out comprehensive insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Read more about healthcare when studying abroad.

For more information about healthcare when living abroad, read our guide on planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019
Next review due: 28 August 2022