Information for patients
The Portuguese health system is characterized by three co-existing and overlapping systems: the universal NHS; the health subsystems, health insurance schemes for which membership is based on professional/ occupational group or company; and private voluntary health insurance (VHI).
Most doctors are based at public health centres and once you have registered for public healthcare in Portugal, you will be able to register and make an appointment with a doctor. To register for public healthcare in Portugal, you first need to register with Portuguese Social Security to get a social security number. Unless you have to go to hospital for emergency treatment, you will need a referral from a Portuguese doctor for treatment. Standard public health insurance may not cover some hospital costs, so it is advisable to check before receiving treatment
To see a specialist (e.g., cardiologists, psychologists) through the state healthcare system, patients will typically need to be referred by a doctor. Small co-payments are applicable towards the costs of seeing a specialist in Portugal.
20% of the population also opts for private health insurance to supplement their public health insurance. This might be to cover extra services that the state Portuguese healthcare system does not include or to cover 100% of costs. This also entitles them to treatment from private healthcare providers in Portugal, which can actually be quicker than public healthcare services.
Information for healthcare professionals
Doctors need to register in the Portuguese Medical Association in order to practice.
There are two medical unions, that can provide legal help on work matters for national and foreign doctors: Federação Nacional dos Médicos and Sindicato Independente dos Médicos.
Ordem dos Médicos (Medical Chamber) also provides assistance with specific legal matters.
To apply for a training post, candidates need to take the National Exam, which is held in November every year. The Examination will rank the candidate at the national level according to the exam mark (80%) and medical school grade (20%), and thus position them in the competition for training posts. After the exam, the candidates start their foundation year in January. During that year, the total number of training positions is announced.
Information for travellers
There are numerous health centers (centros de saude) all over Portugal, where you typically start any process for seeking treatment. Most health centers in Portugal are open from 8am to 8pm and various health professionals run these centres.
Non-residents and temporary visitors to Portugal will need to purchase private health insurance to cover their stay in Portugal. However, those on short visits from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland can access public healthcare in Portugal through their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Link to Ministry of Health: https://www.sns.gov.pt/institucional/ministerio-da-saude/