The idea for this article and the others to follow started when I saw two episodes of a recent series on UK television scaremongering about retiring to Spain. These two episodes are part of a current spate of programmes which seem to repeat the same message time after time and are on top of previous programmes shown last year. This time they seem to be concentrating on the medical provision in Spain.
Normally these things just pass me by; it’s not that I don’t care – I do – but they are often about unknown regions of Spain or the far South. We know that things vary in Spain; they can vary from town to town and village to village, let alone region to region. So, I guess, it’s really a case of “Don’t know, don’t care”.
Now last week on one of these programmes I heard Alicante mentioned, I heard Alicante hospital mentioned, I heard Valencia mentioned and the Costa Blanca. That’s on my doorstep, that’s about my area. Now I do care and I care very much.
I suppose I wouldn’t worry too much if what was being portrayed was correct, but in many cases it was either exaggerated or totally false.
We have to ask at this stage: why are the programmes being shown, why are they being repeated on a fairly regular basis, why are they always so negative? Now you may think this is Orwellian, but the UK government is seeing more and more people at retirement age leaving the UK (and many below the normal retirement age). Where these people are properly registered in Spain the UK government is having to make a contribution to the Spanish health system for their care. Even if they are not properly registered the money they get from their UK pension is being spent in Spain and IVA is being received by the Spanish government. The UK is losing a considerable amount in VAT. With these thoughts in mind I leave the conclusion to you!
Let’s have a look at some of the individual points generally raised in these programmes:
• The Spanish hate us!
Totally incorrect as a blanket statement. My wife and I and all our friends have found the Spanish people to be wonderful, family orientated, caring and considerate. I have to put a rider here! If a Brit moves to Australia with a bad attitude the term quickly used is ‘whinging Pom’. If the same thing happens in Spain the attitude just becomes less friendly. You get what you give!
• The Spanish medical service doesn’t provide good service or good treatment!
You can only speak as you find and my answer is that it does. I had a bad accident breaking four ribs, and badly cutting my face and lips. I was operated on immediately for the damage to my face with almost no scar left. I was in intensive care for two days and they arranged for a nurse who spoke English to be with me overnight. They were superb and this was under their National Health! This is not an isolated story; I am aware of many people who have had superb service from the Spanish medical system. There is, however, a culture difference. The Spanish still generally expect to look after their elderly relatives and they also expect to assist with the care of their relatives who are staying in hospital. They think it is the right thing to do, and who are we to argue with them?
• There is no medical care for expats in Spain!
A difficult one, this.
- In certain regions of Spain you can register, at any age, for medical care if you live permanently in Spain. All you need is to be on the padrón.
- If you are over retirement age and in receipt of a pension, medical care is automatic. You just need to register. That applies all over Spain.
- Private health care is much cheaper than in the UK. We pay around €1000 per annum for the pair of us for FULL private health care.
• Britons are treated badly in the Spanish health system!
I have never experienced this either on the private system or the National Health system and I have never heard of anybody else experiencing it. I would suggest the incidents portrayed in the programmes have one of three causes. Either it was friction between two individuals (which can happen anywhere), bad attitude on the part of the patient or an individual doctor, or lack of understanding. Which brings us to the next point…
• They don’t speak English!
Hello, real world calling! This is Spain, they speak Spanish and if you try they will try, but don’t expect the language to be English. We can take this further; I have been to UK hospitals where I have found it difficult to understand what the doctor is telling me! I also wonder, if a foreigner comes to the UK and cannot speak English, how quickly a doctor and nurse who speaks their language will be found. It is easy to forget that the two primary international languages of the world are Spanish and English and probably in that order.
Hey, we don’t want to get bored and I really could go on refuting many aspects of these so-called documentary programmes. Of course things can go wrong, of course people can receive bad treatment, of course the language barrier is difficult – but with the right attitude it can all be overcome and work well. The telly doesn’t always tell the exact truth, it provides stories which have to be sensationalised to be attractive and therefore the message can become distorted. “Come and see for yourself” is the answer!