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A place in the sun? Healthcare rights of retired UK citizens in Spain post-Brexit

  • Joaquin Cayon-De Las Cuevas (a1) and Tamara Hervey (a2)

At least 100,000 retired UK citizens currently live in Spain. Under EU law, they are entitled to access the Spanish National Health Service (NHS) with minimum administrative difficulty. What will their legal position be under a ‘no-deal Brexit’? This is a question of Spanish law. The worst case scenario is that they will have to reapply for their residence permits under the Spanish legislation applicable to non-EU/European Economic Area citizens, with all the administrative inconvenience and cost entailed. If they successfully reapply, their personal health care costs will be considerably higher than at present, should they choose to remain in Spain. Very obvious questions of capacity planning arise. The Spanish system will potentially need to gear up for a significant administrative effort. Given the distinct possibility of a ‘no-deal Brexit’, the UK NHS should prepare to welcome significant numbers of pensioners home.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Tamara Hervey, School of Law, University of Sheffield, Bartolome House, Winter St, Sheffield, S3 7ND, UK. Email:
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Health Economics, Policy and Law
  • ISSN: 1744-1331
  • EISSN: 1744-134X
  • URL: /core/journals/health-economics-policy-and-law
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