Patients’ Charter in the Canaries

British people coming to live in Tenerife from the UK will be familiar with the concept of a Patients’ Charter, a list of rights for NHS users. In Spain, access to the public health service is restricted mainly to those who are making social security contributions, either through their employer or as self-employed individuals, or who are EU pensioners (including British, of course) whose cover is provided by reciprocal arrangement between their pension-providing country and Spain.

Whilst Spain does not have a separate Patients’ Charter in the way the UK does, there is nonetheless an equivalent list contained within the Canarian healthcare legislation. I have put the link to the full law (Ley 11/1994, de 26 de julio, de ordenación sanitaria de Canarias) in the links page, and HERE is the page for further links within the Oficina de Defensa de los Derechos de los Usuarios Sanitarios (Office for the Defence of Patients’ Rights). What follows is the list as it is effective for patients using the health system here.

You have the absolute and guaranteed right by law:

  • To respect for your personality, dignity and privacy and not to be subject to unfair discrimination unless absolutely essential for medical reasons.
  • To medical confidentiality.
  • To register a complaint and receive an answer in writing (in the final instance, you should submit your complaint on THIS form to the Oficina de Defensa de los Derechos de los Usuarios Sanitarios (the complaints department of the regional government’s health department).
  • To participate in healthcare activities and, in particular, the orientation and evaluation of the service.
  • To adequate, comprehensible and appropriate information about factors, situations and causes of risk for individual and collective health; about the rights and responsibilities of users and beneficiaries of the Canarian Health System; and about healthcare services and provisions and conditions for their use.
  • To supporting documentation concerning your state of health when required for legal purposes.
  • To health promotion and education.
  • To appropriate provisions and services of healthcare within the available resources.
  • To obtain medication and healthcare products considered necessary to promote, preserve or restore health.
  • To equality of access to and use of healthcare services.
  • To choice of doctor from those in your municipality and to specialists according to resources and public needs.
  • To free access to Accident and Emergency faculties in your area.
  • To choice of health centre or public hospital within the limits of optimization of public resources and availability.
  • To be assigned a doctor, and a locum in case of absence, who will ordinarily assume responsibility for assistance when required.
  • To receive complete and continuous information in comprehensible terms, both verbal and in writing, about any process, including diagnosis, prognosis and alternative treatments. This information to be provided also to the patient’s family if necessary.
  • To not be given, as a patient, any diagnostic procedure or experimental therapy without previously having granted free consent in writing and agreed with the doctor responsible and the medical authorities.
  • To free choice between options presented by a doctor, with prior written consent being required from the patient for any intervention, except where it would be dangerous for public health for a doctor not to intervene, or where the patient might not be capable of making a decision (in which case the right devolves to the patient’s family, or judicial authority if a family either does not exist or cannot be found), or where emergency intervention is required.
  • To refuse treatment.
  • To have an appropriate written record throughout any process, and to receive a report when dischargedfrom hospital.
  • To be informed of the economic cost of provision of services received.
  • To receive, in all centres, services and healthcare establishments, a copy of all rights and responsibilities governing your relationship with the same.
  • To a second opinion.
  • To special procedures and health programmes, subject to availability, in the case of children, the elderly, the mentally ill, those with chronic and disabling illnesses, and those specifically recognized as belonging to groups at health risk.
  • To require the medical faculty, in the case of the mentally ill in voluntary admission, to re-examine periodically the need to be kept in.
  • To have enforced admissions, in the case of the mentally ill, carried out in accordance with article 211 of the Civil Code.

In addition to these rights, patients have the following duties:

  • To comply with medical instructions and public health orders, both general and particular.
  • To tolerance of healthcare measures adopted for the prevention of risk, health protection, or in the fight against threats to public health, as well as collaboration with the same.
  • To use, look after, and enjoy the installations, services and provisions of the Canarian Health System in a responsible manner and in accordance with the corresponding rules.
  • To respect the personal and professional dignity of healthcare personnel.
  • To observe the rules, as well as being loyal, truthful and supportive in acquiring provisions from the system.
  • To follow prescribed treatments.

For the sake of fullness, HERE is an information leaflet answering Frequently Asked Questions from the Canarian Government’s Health Dept, Sanidad, and HERE is a leaflet providing general information about the system. HERE, too, is a brief EU list of health benefits that European nationals enjoy while travelling within Europe.

On a tangential note, I am sometimes asked about blood donation. There are often calls for blood donations, whether because supplies in general are running low or because a particular group is needed. Unfortunately, anyone, whether British or not, who was in the UK for more than twelve months (consecutively or in total) between January 1980 and December 1996, the period in which meat was not controlled cannot heed these calls because Spain, like most other EU countries, has rules in place due to fears about CJD. This information has been confirmed to me personally by the British Foreign Office, and in addition, the Spanish emergency services confirm it thus:

En relación a su consulta, por normativa de la UE, no puede trasfundirse sangre de personas (británicos o no) que hayan estado más de 12 meses (consecutivos o en total) en Reino Unido entre 1980 y 1996, la etapa en la que la carne no estaba controlada.


  1. I am from the uk and have been living in Tenerife for about 6 years. I am 26 and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 13. So I came out here when it wasnt too bad. I would like to know how I go about getting treatment for this, if its free or how much it will cost. I have a residential certificate and work in a bar when I am able. I love living here but I am now I so much pain , I am desperate to get treatment. Can you advise me please. Thankyou

  2. Author

    Hi Joan, like me, then. I agree it is much easier here – not just because it’s warmer, but because the temperature and, just as importantly, the humidity, is less changeable. For treatment, you either have to have private medical cover, or be registered in the state system and allocated to a particular surgery. If you are in the state system, you will get subsidised prescriptions – you won’t pay full price for treatment. Having said all that, unless your Rheumatoid Arthritis is of the severe kind, you will almost certainly be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). My own level is “moderate”, and I neither want nor need to up the ante to take steroids. The NSAIDs generally prescribed are Ibuprofeno, and these can be bought very cheaply over the counter at any chemist.

  3. Hello Janet, I am currently ‘house sitting’ in Adeje. I plan to rent my house in the UK and take out a ‘long term local rental initially of 3 to 5 years.
    I am a fit and healthy 63 year old retired police officer in receipt of a police pension. I pay UK tax but no longer pay NI contributions.
    I would like to obtain a ‘Certificado de Registro’. However to obtain this I have been told I need Private Health Care Insurance until I am 65 in 19 months time.
    Initial enquiries to UK insurers have produced quotes of £250 per month….and I have NO current or ongoing ailments!
    Janet, are there any local alternatives to the excessive UK Health Insurers?
    Thank you in anticipation, David Harvey.

  4. Author

    Yes, you will not be entitled to pensioner cover until you are of UK retirement pension age, and so will need private health insurance. I think you will find that private healthcare here is much (or at least considerably) cheaper than in the UK. There are various companies, Sanitas and DKV are two of the most popular.

  5. One company that I have seen recommended is who will insure expats living abroad. I gather rates start around 90 euros a month.

  6. Janet my husband very bad in hospital, if he survives and on oxygen can I fly him back home, just want to get home. anyone this happen too,

  7. On my last journey to Tenerife on Monarch there was a passenger with what appeared to be his own oxygen supply in a rucksack. The crew as you might imagine took a great deal of interest in the rucksack. It was taken to the captain for inspection and I can only assume that he approved it being on the plane as he took off on time having given the passenger the rucksack back. I was behind the passenger at the flight boarding desk/passport control and there was quite a hold up while some paperwork was inspected by the ground staff relating to the rucksack. I suggest that you will need to make enquiries with your carrier well before your intended flight to verify if it would be acceptable to carry oxygen. Alternatively if you have travel insurance you should make enquiries about being flown back under the insurer’s supervision. I hope you sort something out.

  8. Author

    Ann I’m sorry I don’t know. As Snowbird says, you’ll need to check with the airline, and of course the medics in the hospital will have to agree to his release and travel. I do wish him all the very best for his recovery. As an absolutely “in extremis” option, I know that a private air ambulance can be hired for around 20,000 Euros all in including medical personnel, again though, the doctors at the hospital will have to approve his release beforehand and supply the necessary paperwork. If you need details for this I can find them for you quite quickly. Good luck!

  9. Janet, if you have a complaint about private hospital who can you write to.Last week I went the the San Eugene private hospital and ask to see a doctor, I also ask the man on reception how much would it cost for blood test and chest X-ray as I had cough for three weeks, He said 230 I said okay and gave my credit cards so he took 230 out of my credit card, Went to see doctor and he gave me prescription, I waited outside to be called for test but no one was calling me so I ask the man on reception what was the story, He said doctor said I did not need them but I still have to pay 230, I argued but was wasting my time, Now I have to go to another clinic tomorrow and pay again as I am still sick and know I am very run down, Is there a medical counsel you can complain to here in Tenerife

  10. Author

    Ann, in the first place I’d get straight in touch with the patients’ rights dept of the health service to see if they cover private hospitals for the purposes of complaints. Their numbers are 922 474 762 and 922 474 764. If they do not cover private hospitals, they will be able to tell you how best to complain about one.

  11. Hi Janet, I’m hoping that you can point me in the right direction, last June I started a new position as a Chef, unfortunately in November I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and am currently in the system waiting for 2 hip replacements, plus I also have osteoarthritis in the sacroiliac nerves and coccyx. In March I was sent a message via messenger to say my contract was being finished as I cannot do the job and they are forming a new SL company. I have been to mutua and got the necessary paperwork, however they are refusing to sign my finiquito and certificate empressa. Mutua will not accept my paperwork for sick pay without the signatures. I’m not sure what to do now but have been advised to go to the work inspectors and explain the situation to them. I belive it is there gestoria telling them not to sigh. Could you advise please. Thank you.

  12. Author

    No, I can’t advise, I’m so sorry, because this is just not my field, and I think it’s beyond casual advice on the internet anyway. In my opinion you need to see a qualified asesora like Diana McGowan or even an employment lawyer. Apologies.

  13. Thank you for your prompt reply.

  14. Betty, I checked with a restaurant owner who confirmed as I had thought – no contract can be voided without a formal notice in writing: your contract is still valid, providing you had a proper contract in the first place. Yes, call to the Commission de Obreros (CC.OO) in the Valdes Centre in Los Cristianos and bring whatever paperwork you have (and someone to translate if necessary)

  15. Hi Janet, my wife recently had an accident in Tenerife,breaking her Femur- she was covered by Medical Insurance and transferred to the “Green Hospital” where she was operated on . Unfortunately her post operative treatment was to put it mildly , poor / if not negligent .
    My complaint to the insurer has been considered but whilst they agree their comments and advice is that Hospiten will only accept postal complaints to an address in Mexico !
    I am querying if the link above to complaints procedure only applies to the state hospitals or would a private hospital be covered by this ?
    Thanks in advance foe any response !

  16. Author

    I think that it applies to all hospitals, but am not certain. None the less, it should apply to the Green Hospital because it is not purely private, but state-private mixed … and I don’t see that it should matter that your wife was treated there as a private rather than a state patient. I hope your wife recovers fully, John, a thigh break is a major injury!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.