We did not move to Spain to benefit from the healthcare system, but it is one of the ‘extras’ that we have become aware of. For instance, I have a thyroid condition and I suffer from Type 2 diabetes; for each of these I need daily medication which is organised by means of a trip to my doctor twice a year. He prescribes six months’ supply, entering the prescription on computer and printing off a copy for me so that I can see when I will need to ask for a renewal. In my wallet I have a green plastic card complete with microchip and each time I need more of a particular medication, I present the card at the pharmacy, the assistant inserts it in the reader and gives me another pack. I say ‘the pharmacy’ because it is about three minutes walk away here in the village, but I can collect my medication from any pharmacy in Andalucía under this system (possibly from any pharmacy in Spain; I’m not sure of that).
Appointments to see doctor or the practice nurse are always available within a maximum of 48 hours, except at weekends, either by dropping into the health centre or by booking an appointment online, and any follow-up examinations by specialists are quickly arranged. For out of hours needs, there is a walk-in centre in Nerja, six kilometers away. Moreover, my medical records really are my records. My bloodtest results are printed off for me as well as being stored on computer, so that I can see at a glance how my diabetic control is being maintained from one test to the next. Likewise, If I need x-rays, they are given to me and I, in turn, show them to my doctor, who returns them to me when he has examined them; any reports from specialists are also printed off for me.
All of this is very impressive, but I have just been reading of another potential healthcare benefit, though one I hope never to have to take advantage of. Spain, it transpires, is the foremost country in the world in the provision of transplant surgery. Not only is the rate of organ donation high - in 2010, in a country of approximately 40 million people, 3,773 transplant operations were carried out - but the speed with which transplants are available is equally impressive. According to the aricle which I read in El Pais, liver transplants are carried out within four months on average, lungs within five to six months, and hearts within only two months. The longest waiting time is for kidney transplants, at between twenty and twenty four months.
I don’t gloat when I hear of the problems people face accessing treatment in the UK, but I do feel extremely fortunate to have found myself by chance served by such an excellent system.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Over the weekend I learned from a Spanish TV programme that Andalucía leads Spain in transplant surgery. How lucky is that!