Healthcare in Portugal, including Madeira

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS.

This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Visitors to Portugal

Finding help in an emergency

If you find yourself in a serious life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge.

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

The state health system is universal and eligibility is residence-based. Everyone, regardless of nationality, economic status or legal status, is entitled to free emergency healthcare in the SNS at a state health centre or hospital.

If you wish to be treated under the state system, you must call 112 and ask for an ambulance to take you to the nearest state hospital.

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention.

You can expect to be charged in full for any care provided without an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

You should always buy enough travel insurance and make sure you have access to funding to cover any medical treatment abroad.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund.

Currently, your EHIC enables you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Portugal at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, if you're staying there temporarily.

If you're asked to pay for health services upfront, it's likely that you're not being treated under the state health system.

EHIC does not cover certain costs, including:

  • private treatment
  • being brought back to the UK
  • mountain rescue services
  • cruises

Be especially careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative.

They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they're referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

Provisional replacement certificate (PRC)

A PRC is a certificate demonstrating a person's entitlement to EHIC.

If you need healthcare but do not have your EHIC with you, you can call Overseas Healthcare Services and ask them to send a PRC to show to the hospital. This will avoid you being directly charged.

Contact Overseas Healthcare Services:

UK: 0191 218 1999
Outside UK: +44 191 218 1999

Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm UK time.

People with pre-existing health conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before visiting Portugal.

You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have to make sure you can get the cover you need.

If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU, but may not work after that.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel.

Make sure you take with you any documents about your health condition or medication.

If you're travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, see our section about seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Dentists

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

Hospitals

Just like in the UK, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment.

Make sure you're referred to a state hospital as only these provide treatment free of charge (though you may still have to make a small contribution, known as moderating fees).

Even in a state hospital you'll need a valid EHIC. Double-check you're not treated as a private patient.

In the state healthcare system, you have the right to insist your EHIC is accepted. You do not have to provide travel insurance details unless you choose to do so.

Prescriptions

Medicines in Portugal are rated in a grade system and are subsidised by the following amounts: class A (90%), class B (69%), class C (37%) and class D (15%).

When using your EHIC, people of working age are charged 50% and pensioners are charged about 10%.

Pensioners will have to declare they receive a UK State Pension to pay the lower rate.

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.

After the UK leaves the EU

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your access to healthcare when visiting Portugal is likely to change.

If you're planning to visit Portugal after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance so you can get the healthcare treatment you need, just as you would if visiting a non-EU country.

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

The UK government is seeking agreements with countries, including Portugal, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after the UK leaves the EU.

This guide will be updated with further information on travelling to Portugal as the circumstances change.

Working in Portugal

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

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

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

Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:

National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AN
United Kingdom

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3500
  • Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010

Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (closed weekends and bank holidays).

For more information, see Planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

After the UK leaves the EU

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

If you're a UK posted worker, you may need to buy additional healthcare insurance in Portugal so you can receive the healthcare treatment you need.

Pensioners in Portugal

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

If you live in Portugal and receive an exportable UK pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK.

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

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit.

Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website.

Different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

S1 certificate (formerly known as E106)

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

After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states.

You should continue to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate if you:

  • have worked and paid contributions in the UK
  • receive some UK benefits, such as pensions

Apply for an S1 certificate through the Business Services Authority

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre at the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.

Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website.

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 Britons living in Portugal.

After the UK leaves the EU

If you're a registered resident in Portugal, you'll be able to continue to access the Portuguese health system.

This guide will be updated with further information on living in Portugal as the circumstances change.

Students in Portugal

If you're a UK resident and studying in Portugal, and you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

You should continue to buy insurance to cover your healthcare as you would if you were visiting a non-EU country after the UK leaves the EU.

Page last reviewed: 28/01/2019
Next review due: 28/01/2022