A comprehensive guide to children’s healthcare in Spain, including mental, physical, and dental care, when using the public and private healthcare systems.
Spain offers free healthcare services to all children residing in the country, as well as additional private healthcare options. This guide explains what you need to know, with sections on the following topics:
- Overview of children’s healthcare in Spain
- How to access children’s healthcare in Spain
- Pediatricians in Spain
- Taking your child to see a Spanish doctor or specialist
- Children’s hospitals in Spain
- Dental care for children in Spain
- Mental healthcare for children in Spain
- Preventative healthcare programs for Spanish children
- Useful resources
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Children’s healthcare in Spain
If you’re a parent moving to Spain, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Spanish healthcare system ranks highly in global terms. Spain is 19th on the most recent Healthcare Access and Quality Index with a score of 92 out of 100. 98.1% of Spanish children are in good health and only 0.4% are in poor health. Both scores are better than the EU average.
Spain has a public health system that offers universal coverage to all. This is mostly covered by health insurance payments. All children who are residents of Spain receive free state healthcare that covers most standard services.
The Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs, and Social Welfare (Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo, y Bienestar Social) regulates healthcare in Spain, providing a variety of information, including annual reviews of vaccination schedules, assessments of emerging diseases, and educational materials. However, each autonomous community in Spain has its’ own regulations relevant to residents of that region.
How to access children’s healthcare in Spain
Public healthcare for children in Spain
You can access public healthcare in Spain if you live or work in the country or register with Spanish social security. All children in Spain receive public healthcare. As long as you register for state healthcare with the Spanish authorities, your children enjoy the same healthcare rights.
General healthcare services are free for children in Spain. These include the following:
- Pre-natal and post-natal care
- Pediatric care up until age 15 (and standard care from a general practitioner after)
- Free vaccinations until age 14
- Dental care in Spain until age 15
- Access to 23 different types of specialty practitioners
- Prolonged benefits in both standard healthcare and dental care for children with physical or mental disabilities
- Dental and physical health education, including information on nutrition
- Free emergency services, including free emergency dental care
Private healthcare for kids in Spain
Many families residing in Spain opt for private healthcare. This is because package deals are offered, giving a range of benefits to both parents and their children. In particular, private health insurance allows access to multilingual services, extended dental packages, and reduced waiting times for specialists in comparison to the public service.
The following private international companies provide insurance packages including children’s healthcare that are suitable for expats in Spain:
Pediatricians in Spain
Children in Spain see a pediatrician for general healthcare until the age of 15. Spanish pediatricians work mainly in health centers (centros de salud) and pediatric clinics. Some work in private practices; however, this is more common among private pediatricians.
Most Spanish hospitals have pediatric departments, although these deal mainly with specialist care and are usually accessed through referrals.
You can register your child with a pediatrician if you are entitled to access public healthcare. This means that your child gets free healthcare. Alternatively, you can access private pediatric care through private health insurance.
You can find pediatricians in Spain through your local health authority. They will be able to provide details of local pediatricians who are members of the Spanish Medical Association (Organización Médica Colegial de España) or the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (Asociación Española de Pediatría). You can also search for English-speaking professionals on the UK government website.
Routine checkups for children in Spain
Spanish pediatricians look after the health and development of your child until the age of 15. This includes carrying out post-birth exams, performing preventative screenings and vaccinations, monitoring development, and referring to specialist services if necessary.
Checks and screenings will be done to monitor the following:
- height and weight
- hearing and vision
- cognitive, mental, and psychological development
- birth injuries or health issues developing within the first 24 hours of life
- the general state of health, ensuring that your child is free from infectious diseases and serious health conditions
Your child will usually see a pediatrician at the following times:
- once a month for the first six months
- every three months from the age of 6–12 months
- every four months from the age of 1–2 years
- twice a year from ages 2–6 years
- at least once a year from the ages 6–15 years
Vaccinations for children in Spain
Immunizations are not a legal requirement for children’s healthcare in Spain; however, it is highly recommended. Spain has 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities, each with their own vaccination schedule. Additionally, the Advisory Committee on Vaccines of the Spanish Association of Paediatrics updates the immunization schedule every year.
Currently, children up to age 14 get the following vaccinations in Spain for free under the Spanish national health service:
- Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus Influenzae type B, meningococcus C, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Certain risk groups can obtain vaccines for chickenpox, pneumococcus, and influenza.
Taking your child to see a doctor or specialist in Spain
Children in Spain tend to see pediatricians rather than general doctors in the early years of their lives. However, you can take your child to see a doctor in Spain. In order to do this, you must register with a local practitioner. Doctors are available in health centers, individual practices, and hospitals in Spain. Some doctors provide treatments through both state and private services.
There are 23 branches of pediatric specialties in Spain. In order to see a specialist through the state system, your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician must provide a referral. However, waiting times can be long for diagnostics and other specialist services.
Private healthcare insurance often allows you to visit specialist clinics directly. It generally has much shorter wait times for specialist care in comparison to the state service and also provides medical services in multiple languages.
Read even more in our informative guide to doctors in Spain.
Children’s hospitals in Spain
Most Spanish hospitals have pediatric wards where you can get specialist treatment for your child with a referral. This is usually free if it is a public hospital and you have state health insurance. Otherwise, you’ll need private health insurance to cover costs.
You can take your child to the accidents and emergencies (A&E) department of the nearest Spanish hospital in the event of an emergency. The hospital should provide treatment even if you are not covered by insurance.
You can find specialist children’s hospitals in some of the big Spanish cities. These include:
- Saint Joan de Déu, Barcelona
- Hospital Materno-Infantil Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona
- Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús, Madrid
- Materno-Infantil 12 de Octubre, Madrid
- Hospital Materno-Infantil Gregario Marañón, Madrid
You can search for hospitals via the Spanish Ministry of Health.
See even more details on hospital care in our guide to Spanish hospitals.
Dental care for kids in Spain
Although the Spanish healthcare system doesn’t include free dental treatment for adults, dental care for children is free under the Spanish healthcare system until the age of 15.
Dental treatments are available to children between ages 6–15 in Spain. However, this varies across the autonomous regions. For instance, Madrid offers free dental care to children aged 6-16, while Catalonia treats children aged 7–17 for free.
Free dental care for children in Spain includes the following:
- annual or twice-yearly checkups
- cavity fillings
- emergency treatment
- tooth removals
- preventative care
Other treatments such as implants or being fitted for braces are generally not free. Costs vary across Spain’s different regions. Private healthcare is a popular option when seeking dental care in Spain as it guarantees complete coverage, regardless of regional residency.
You can search for registered dentists in Spain through the General Council of Dentists (Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Dentistas).
Mental healthcare for children in Spain
Children’s mental healthcare in Spain is good in comparison to other countries. All regions provide standard services such as access to child psychologists and psychiatrists. In a 2018 World Health Organization study of children aged 11–15, Spanish children reported high levels of well-being and among the lowest levels of feeling low, irritable, or being bullied.
Child mental health services are delivered differently under each region’s health system. In general, pediatricians will monitor the psychological development of children and refer to specialists if necessary. Hospital pediatric departments include both in-patient and outpatient care. Specialisms including eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and addictive behavior.
Children in Spain with long-term mental illnesses receive extended free healthcare coverage. This includes, for example, dental care and GP treatment beyond the age of 15.
Preventative healthcare programs for Spanish children
Preventative programs for children’s healthcare in Spain that focus on promoting healthy living (for example, healthy eating or arts-based health projects in schools or community groups) tend to vary across the autonomous regions.
Centrally, the Spanish government has become more involved in healthy lifestyle promotion in recent years. The Ministry of Health launched a Health Promotion and Prevention Strategy (HPPS) in 2013, which includes positive parenting training to improve child health as well as advice on improving health and wellbeing.
Part of the HPPS launch in 2015 was a healthy lifestyle section on the Ministry of Health website. Here, the HPPS provides parents with information on healthy eating, physical activity, emotional wellbeing, tobacco prevention, and reducing alcohol consumption. There are sections that children and adolescents can explore themselves. The Ministry of Health also has health promotion information for both children and adolescents.