Access to Health Assistance System

Useful Information

Healthcare System
Photo:  Município do PortoCC BY-NC-SA - Some Rights Reserved

National Health Service (SNS)

Right to health care

In Portugal, every citizen, even foreigners, are entitled to overall health care, namely assistance at a public health centre or hospital (in the event of an emergency), in direct proportion to the needs of each person and regardless of their financial, social and cultural status.

The public health centre is the basic unit of the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS) for attending to and providing health care to the population. Except in situations of medical emergencies, this should be the first port of call. Public health centres are distributed by area and citizens should use the one corresponding to their area of residence. Generally, they are open every working day from 08:00-20:00, though some are open for longer and at the weekend for emergencies.

Paying for medical services

For every consultation or instance of care provided, foreign citizens who pay social security contributions must pay what is called a taxa moderadora, based on the rate currently in force. For foreign citizens who do not pay social security contributions, the fee charged may cover the costs of the care in line with the price list in force.

Services provided

The services provided by the National Health Service (SNS) encompass:

  • promotion and monitoring of health care and disease prevention;
  • general practice and specialist medical care;
  • nursing care;
  • hospital inpatient services;
  • supplementary diagnostic tests;
  • medicines and medicinal products;
  • prostheses and other supplementary therapeutic appliances.

The National Health Service doesn't provide dental consultations.


  • European health insurance card (EHIC)

The EHIC (formerly form E111) is a document which ensures health care provision when a beneficiary of a social security system in one of the Member States of the EU, European Economic Area or Switzerland travels temporarily within that area, and should be requested in your country of origin.

While guaranteeing that a person receives all the medical assistance necessary in another country of the EU or the European Economic Area that allows him/her to continue their stay without having to return to their own country to receive treatment, this card not only facilitates medical assistance in Portugal, assuring a person receives assistance in line with the rules in force, it also ensures that any costs, in the event you are asked to pay directly for any medical expenditure apart from the taxa moderadora or comparticipação, as required for Portuguese citizens, are reimbursed immediately upon your return home.

The card does not cover situations in which the insured person travels to another country to receive medical treatment on the grounds that it cannot be provided in Portugal (due to lack of technical resources). In this situation, form E112, relating to health care planned in another Member State of the European Economic Area (EEE) and Switzerland, should be requested .

The card also does not cover health care providers in the private sector.

Further information at:


  • Health Service Card (Cartão de Utente)

In the absence of an EHIC, access to the National Health Service (SNS), for the purposes of receiving health care, requesting supplementary diagnostic and therapeutic tests and the prescription and purchase of medicines, is via presentation of a user ID card, or Health Service Card (Cartão de Utente).

Foreign citizens who have a permit to stay or reside in Portugal or a work visa may request a card by presenting their permit or work visa, where applicable, to the health services in the area where they reside. The card can be requested at the public health centre or at a Citizens' Advice Bureau (Loja do Cidadão).

Foreign citizens who do not have a permit to stay or reside or a work visa can also use the services and faclities of the SNS by presenting an atestado de residência, issued by the parish council, which verifies that they have been in Portugal for longer than 90 days at the health services (public health centre) of their area of residence.

Refusal to provide health care

In the event that you are refused health care, you should contact the Health Service User Office (Gabinete do Utente) of the health centre or hospital in question, or the National Immigrant Support Centre (CNAI) in Porto:

  • CNAI - Porto
    Rua do Pinheiro, n.º 9
    4050-484 Porto
    Mon-Fri 08:30–16:30 / Sat 09:00-13:00
    T. +351 222071274/5
    Fax: +351 222073818

Suggestions and complaints

Suggestions and complaints related to public or private health facilities should, preferably, be noted down in the official complaints book (Livro de Reclamações) of the establishments in question. In the case of the National Health Service (SNS), users can contact the respective Health Service User Office (Gabinete do Utente).

You can contact the Inspectorate General of Health (Inspeção-Geral das Atividades de Saúde (IGAS):

  • In person: 09:00-13:00/14:00-17:00
  • By phone: +351 213408100 – 09:00/17:00
  • By fax: +351 213471837

Further information on the SNS at:

Private health care provision

Besides the National Health Service, it is also possible to use private clinics and hospitals.

Check the list at:


In the event of an emergency, alert the relevant services immediately by dialing the number 112. The call, services and transport are free of charge.

For further information and contacts, also see:

Published 22-05-2013