Portuguese Health Care

The quality of health care and health care facilities in Portugal has improved enormously during the last ten years, and Portugal now has a good health care system. If you are planning to move to Portugal to work, to live or retire it is important that you are familiar with the Portuguese health care system.

Health Care Whilst Working in Portugal

The Portuguese public health care system provides free or low cost care and treatments for everyone who contributes to the Portuguese social security, plus their families and retirees. So if you are working in Portugal, you will be entitled to free basic healthcare including free doctor’s appointments and basic medicines. However non-essential medicine is not free and is charged at between 40 and 100% of the full cost.

Living in Portugal

If you are an EU resident living in Portugal, you are entitled to a medical card that allows you free medical treatment at a local health centre and the local GP. To obtain the card, you will have to submit your residency permit and social security card and show it at the health centre. If you are a non EU national you are recommended to have private health insurance to cover the cost of receiving treatment in Portugal.

If you are a retired EU citizen and plan to live permanently in Portugal, you will need form E121. The E121 entitles you to health care cover from your home country at the same level as a pensioner in Portugal. If you retire before qualifying for a state pension you will need form E106 which will allow you to receive free health cover for two years.
Visitor in Portugal

All EU nationals are entitled to free healthcare during short term visits due to the EU reciprocal heath agreements. You will need to have a European Health Insurance Card (formerly form E111) and submit it to the hospital or clinic if you need healthcare treatment during you stay in Portugal.

Hospitals and Health Centres

There are both private and public healthcare hospitals in Portugal, and in most major towns and cities you will find 24-hour emergency public hospitals as well as private clinics. Many resort areas also have private clinics, and in Lisbon and Porto you can find British hospitals.

In most areas you will find state-run health centres (centros de saúde). If you need immediate emergency treatment it is often easier to get it at a heath centre rather than a public hospital. The centres are typically open from 08:00 to 20:00.

Most Portuguese doctors can speak English well, and there are also many British and other foreign doctors who practise in the resort areas or major cities. Many of them advertise in the local expatriate newspaper.


At the local pharmacies (farmácias) you can buy non-prescription medicine and get free advice for minor ailments from a qualified chemist. In general, pharmacies are open from 09:00-13:00 and 15:00-19:00. Each pharmacy has a sign in the window showing the address of the nearest all-night pharmacy and a list of pharmacies that close late (22:00).


Portuguese healthcare system, has been rated to be the 12th best healthcare system in the world in the World Health Report of the World Health Organisation.

All that an individual seeking healthcare in Portugal from its National Health Service needs to do to get it is approach the nearest Health Centre. In addition, in the case of an emergency situation, people also have the benefit of using Hospital Casualty Services. Problems for which a person can use such services include severe respiratory problems, thrombosis, emergency heart problems, burns, poisoning, and serious physical trauma amongst others.

One of the ways of availing such services in an emergency situation is to simply dial 112 which is the European Emergency Number. Along with this, an information hotline (Linha Saúde 24 808242424) has also been provided for non-emergency situations wherein an individual can clarify various health and procedural issues.

Critical aspects to consider:

A European Union national (i.e. non-Portuguese national) will have to show his or her European Health Insurance Card along with identification proof such as their passport in order to avail medical attention under the purview of the national healthcare of Portugal. This is relevant for individuals hailing from any of the 27 EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Iceland if they are interested in availing free or low cost medical attention.
In addition to this, any individual from abroad with Portuguese residency permits must have a User’s Card and be registered at a National Health Centre to avail such services. The registration and User’s Card can be easily acquired at any of the many National Health Centres by showing proof of authorisation of residence in the country.
The National Health Service can be very useful if you are seeking low cost medical attention at a hospital. However, if you look to claim insurance then you must go to a private hospital outside of the national service.

The national emergency number in Portugal is 112