By Hilary Brown

When I was planning to move to Spain, my GP in the UK said “What will happen to you when you grow old out there?” Well I can definitely say as far as healthcare is concerned in Murcia,

I have no worries of growing old. With talk of cut backs in the NHS and postcode lotteries for treatment and drugs, infections and dirty hospitals and now the government want to end Primary Care Trusts in the UK, I would rather be looked after by the Spanish healthcare, as we both grow old.

Spain’s healthcare is one of the best in Europe .The World Health Organisation says that Murcia is one of the five healthiest places in the world, so it must be the best place to grow old. What with the weather and the tranquil life, hopefully this will extend our lifespan.

Both my husband and I use the local Medicina Familar system regularly for preventative drugs, but have also experienced treatment and consultation at two hospitals in Murcia. One of my experiences was an emergency visit to the Urgencia at Arrixaca Hospital in Murcia, on a Wednesday afternoon. Total time in and out, 2½ hours. If that had been my local hospital in London, 5 to 6 hours would have been the norm and I would have been concerned about the cleanliness, as our local hospital was known as one of the dirtiest in London. Each time we have visited the Murcian hospitals they have been well maintained and spotlessly clean. Every time we have been treated with kindness and patience (used my poco Spanish, but found that many of the staff spoke English far better than my Spanish.)

Preventative medicine is very important in the Murcia region and we have had checks for bowel cancer and breast cancer, since we have lived here.

We have a new Centro de Salud in Pliego. This is a large welcoming building which is busy all morning with two Medicina Familiar, Pediatria and the Enfermeria who are kept busy all morning with injections, blood pressure checks and dressings.

When I first moved to Pliego we had an old medical centre in the middle of the village and my first visit was a great experience, When you make an appointment you are given a ticket with your date and time of your appointment and a number. Oh dear…………., there I was amongst 20 or so people, my Spanish was very poco how did I find out who I followed according to my number on my ticket? There I was going round all these strangers trying to find out who was in front of my number. The funny thing was that this was not stressful and everyone was so friendly and helpful. A visit now to the medical centre is not a problem as I now know the system, but what a difference from a visit to the doctors in UK. For many of the people visiting, especially the older folks, it is more like a morning out. The chatter is fast and loud, no different from what you would experience in a shop or bar. The list of names and appointment times is on the wall outside the doctor’s and this is read meticulously by not only the person coming to see the doctor, but by everyone else and there is always a discussion going on. This is a time to meet up with acquaintances and catch up on the local news. In comes the Lottery man and purchases are made. Now my Spanish is improving and I am getting to know a few local people, I am often involved in the conversations – but do not always understand what is being said, and yes I can work out when it’s my turn. I have found my doctor and the nurses very friendly. They do not always speak English but this has given me the opportunity to practice my Spanish, sometimes the words can be confusing but I feel it is appreciated and I am “having a go”.

How different from visiting the doctor in the UK. I can book my appointment on the internet or at the reception. The lady on the desk has become so friendly and welcoming (not many receptionists like this in UK). I can get an appointment the next day if I need it. No sitting in a waiting room with everyone looking at you, but not speaking a word. In fact I find a visit to the Centro de Salud and amusing an enjoyable experience and I truly get the feel of TRUE SPAIN.

Another advantage is that local emergency treatment is readily available, whether at Pliego, when open, or the 24 hour surgery in Mula. Again you are treated very well, and if they are not able to treat you on site, you are taken to the hospital in Murcia for treatment straightaway. Family and friends have had to use this service whilst here on holiday and they were treated very well indeed.

I hope we continue with good health until we are very old, but at least we feel secure that as far as the healthcare locally and nationally is concerned we will be cared for in our wonderful adopted country and village.