Health care portugal

Getting health care in Portugal Part 3

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Getting health care in Portugal Part 3

Getting health care in Portugal is very simple, it is based on residency, so once you have your 5 year residencia, NIF (Numero de Indentificacao Fiscal) and your passport you can visit your local centre de Saude and register.

You will be given a Numero do Utente and this number will allow you to register with a family doctor.

A very simple and effective process that will work for the majority of the time.


You use the centre de saude in our area.

We have already visited and been refused. But we now need the numero do utente to be able to have the medical certificate to change our driving licenses (you can pay to see a private doctor, but as we should be registered this grates a little)

So we decide to visit again, my spoken Portuguese is far better than last time, so I should be able to get through.

We go to the health centre with all the information we need, and fully armed with the official sites on the IPad (in Portuguese)

Once again John is refused, we are informed that he will need to visit the SEF (immigration centre) as he does not have a social security number or a work visa, we explain that this is not necessary and show the legal stuff, the person is not interested and says that we are the same as Americans and Canadians now (this is comparing us to third country nationals and not Europeans). I explain very calmly that we are still European (we are from the UK and Brexit has not happened yet).

She will have none of it and insists that we need some thing from the SEF to prove entitlement or a social security number. She brings somebody in who can speak English, which is not necessary at this point as we fully understand what she is saying and she fully understands what we are saying.

But there is nothing we can do.

We drive to the SEF and speak to the guy on reception and explain what is happening, he looks at our documents and says we have everything we need.

We know that!!!!!

We can not have an appointment to see anybody as there is nothing they can do, they are very busy and we are wasting their time. But he is really kind and goes to speak to an official and returns with a stamped piece of paper and the officials name and telephone number with the instructions for the person at the centre de saude to telephone him to discuss it.


We head over to the centre de saude and speak to the woman again, she refuses to phone him and says that we cannot have the numero do utente without a social security number (we no longer need work visas or are third country nationals, so she obviously spoke to somebody in the office).

The discussion turns a little heated and others are brought in, this woman is not for turning, we have to visit the Segurança Social (social security office) to get a social security number for John.

We know this is another fruitless trip but go anyway. The woman there explains he cannot have a number unless he is retired or working. Again she is extremely helpful and knows the health centre we are talking about, as she has had this conversation with other people sent to her.

We are now stuck, we need the Numero do Utente, we are entitled to the numero do utente, but we cannot get it.

I turn to Facebook for advice, where we receive some great advice, and a lot of advice telling us how simple it is and what to do (yes exactly, what we have done 3 times!). But we are put in touch with somebody at the Embassy in Lisbon. Apparently this is happening in other places for UK citizens. She agrees to look into it and get back to us.

Which she does and there is work going on with the health centres and training re registering for help. But we need the number sooner rather than later.

We decide to try another health centre, we have done this once before and we were told very apologetically that we had to use the one where we are registered as living. But hey, what have we got to lose.

We go in and it is shut for lunch, so we go and have a nice lunch and return. A very nice lady appears and I explain what we need, I give her Johns documents and 5 minutes later she returns with his number!!!!!!

This is how it should be, it is a very simple process, but so dependant on the official you see on the day, I throw my arms around her and give her a big hug, with lots of obrigadas. She looks as happy as we do.

But we have our numbers, it has taken almost a year, but during that time my spoken Portuguese has improved (to the point I managed my first argument) but this is a very simple process for any European.

Top tips

  • Don’t give up
  • Try at different times and see different people (you often get different answers)
  • Know your rights
  • Speak Portuguese or try to take somebody with you who can
  • To get your health number you need, NIF, Residencia and your ID
  • Good luck and be aware that this information may change (especially if you are from the UK)

If you are visiting Portugal for a holiday, ensure you have the correct holiday insurance.

If you are visiting from a European country also ensure you have an up to date EHIC card.

If you would like to visit for a holiday take a look at this site for the best commission free holiday accommodation

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