Portugal has a reciprocal agreement for visitors from other European Union countries requiring medical treatment and tourists from the UK are entitled to free treatment on production of a British passport and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for an EHIC at UK post offices or online – www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC. Visitors from outside of the EU do not have this reciprocal agreement, and so they must make their own arrangements.
Once living in Portugal, you can apply for a Cartão de Utente (health card). This card gives foreign residents the same rights to treatment as Portuguese citizens and depending on circumstances, discounts on medicines. If you do not have this card and are permanently resident in Portugal, you will need to have private medical insurance.
To obtain a card, you must go to your nearest Centro de Saúde (health centre) with your passport, Certidão or Cartão de Residência (residence certificate or card) and your Cartão de Segurança Social (social security card). You will be given a temporary certificate until your health card is ready for collection at the health centre. This can take up to 3 months or even longer in some areas.
Once you have your health card, you can then be assigned a Médico de Família (family doctor/GP) at your local health centre. You should take your health card or the Número Utente (patient number) when registering at the health centre for the first time and also when seeing a doctor other than the one you have been assigned. Although health care is funded via taxation, you will still need to pay a small fee at each visit.
Whenever you need see a specialist or consultant, you will require a referral first from your family doctor. However, when you need X-rays, blood analysis and certain other tests, your doctor will write a prescription. You must then take this along to the appropriate clinic/department. You will be required to pay an amount towards the cost of the tests.
Basic national health cover includes all types of care excluding dentistry.
If you need emergency treatment, you should dial 112 (free). This number also covers fire and police.
Farmácias (chemists) are open in every town during normal shopping hours, which are typically 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. and 3 P.M. to 7 P.M. Outside of these hours there is a Farmácia de Serviço (duty chemist) available. Every chemist should have a list of the duty chemists in the area on its door. A chemist can also usually offer advice when you are unable to get to your health centre or family doctor.
All pensioners and those receiving long-term incapacity benefit are entitled to free health treatment. If you are from the UK, you will need an S1 form to receive this entitlement. You must take this form along to your nearest Segurança Social (social security office) – www2.seg-social.pt in Portugal with your passport and residence certificate or card and ask for a Cartão de Segurança Social (social security card). When you receive your social security card, you can then go to the local health centre and apply for a Cartão de Utente (health card), as detailed above.
If you have any doubts, contact the in the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle before settling in Portugal.
International Pension Centre
Newcastle upon Tyne