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Want Better Healthcare? Move To Portugal!

Want Better Healthcare? Move To Portugal!

One of the most important things to consider when relocating to another country is the Healthcare system, as, it`s a certain fact that we will all need it sooner or later.



As Brits, we naturally assume that our healthcare system is the best in the world, but as an expat, living in Portugal for over 14 years, I can honestly tell you that that is simply not the case. So, let`s start with my own experiences and then we`ll talk facts and figures.


In November 2012 my mum found a lump in her breast, we went to the local health centre and were given an appointment later that week to see a doctor. Within 2 days of seeing the doctor mum was given a biopsy which unfortunately confirmed she had breast cancer. From that moment on the service provided by the State health system at Hospital Barlavento in Portimao was faultless, and free. Less than 2 weeks after diagnosis mum had a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, and Im happy to say she has now been in remission for 10 months. The care, attention and efficiency shown by the staff in all departments was exceptional, and the ongoing care is just as good. This was not my first experience of the Portuguese state health system as both myself and my father have also had to use it in the past. On each occasion I found the level of service and quality of treatment to be better than that I had previously received from the NHS.


So how easy is it to get State Healthcare? The answer is, it`s a lot easier than many other countries. If you own a holiday home here and only use it for short stays, you can access the health system using your EHIC card (previously known as an E111). If you use your home for long stay holidays and are here for more than 90 days, then you can go to the local Camara ( council offices) and apply for temporary residency which will entitle you to a Numero de Utente and therefore state healthcare. If you are a full time resident then the procedure is simple. If you are working and paying contributions you will have a Numero de Utente as part of your contractual paperwork, if retired you just need to get a form S1 from the Department of Work and Pensions which will transfer your UK National Insurance contributions from the UK to Portugal, therefore, again, entitling you to a Numero de Utente. Once you have applied to, and received this number from, Segurança Social you are ready to use the system.


One of the biggest complaints about the NHS is waiting times. In the UK the target is that you would wait no more than 18 weeks from referral by your GP to seeing a consultant. The reality is very different, in June 2013 there were 155,439 who had been on a waiting list longer than this according to official figures, and even on the NHS website there are numerous complaints from people who have been waiting in excess of 2 years! In Portugal the waiting time is 12 weeks, and if you have been waiting more than 75% of that time with no sign of a date, the local doctor can transfer you to another state hospital or even a private one. Waiting times in Portugal have come by over 65% in the past 2 years due to the introduction of these new measures. The number of doctors per 1,000 patients is 3.3 in Portugal, 50% higher than the UK at 2.2, and, total health expenditure is 9.3% of GDP, which is 21% higher than the UK at 7.7%.


Of course a massive part of good health is denoted by the lifestyle you lead. Good climate, good diet and stress free living can all contribute to us living longer, healthier lives. For example, there are 80% more cases of obesity per year in the UK than there are in Portugal, 35% more cases of breast cancer, 118% more deaths from heart disease and 143% more deaths from respiratory problems.


Not the most cheerful of statistics I´m sure you will agree, but true all the same.


In these days when we all appear to living so much longer, safeguarding our health has to be one of our main priorities, and moving to the sunshine? What a way to prioritize!!!!!