In the wake of a scaremongering story published in the Daily Telegraph last week, the UK’s Department of Health has teamed up with the British Embassy in Madrid to help spread the expat healthcare message.

Titled ‘Using your EHIC in Spain’, the specially commissioned cartoon helpfully informs British holidaymakers how to properly use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), and outlines what their rights are. A second video, due shortly, outlines the healthcare rights of British expats and those who own property in SpainThe British Embassy in Madrid is keen to spread this message far and wide in an attempt to educate Brits abroad of their rights – and their responsibilities – when it comes to using the Spanish healthcare system.

“The video is called ‘Using your EHIC in Spain’ and its purpose is to inform Brits about the rights and entitlements of EHIC holders should they need medical attention during a temporary visit,” said Property & Consular Policy Advisor for the British Consulate-General in Madrid, Bernadette Gallager. “A second video focused on Brits who move permanently to live in Spain is currently in production, so watch this space for more information.”

The video has been released in the same week that the Daily Telegraph has reported that British expats who return home to the UK after living in Spain may not be immediately eligible for free healthcare on the NHS.

The story concerns a new ruling set to be introduced on July 1, when the Residual S1 form (previously known as an E106) – which is used to confirm that Brits living in Spain had paid National Insurance contributions for the past three years in the UK – is withdrawn. Those who already have a signed and valid form will still be covered, but such forms have an expiration date of just 30 months.

But if you live in Spain or are planning to move there, worry not. Those of retirement age will be eligible for a similar reciprocal health agreement via the normal S1 form, which is to remain unchanged. Meanwhile, those who work in Spain and therefore pay into the social security system are eligible for normal Spanish state healthcare.

The grey area is for those who have retired early and moved to Spain. Normally, the residual S1 form covered this demographic, but – owing to increased financial strains being placed on healthcare systems across Europe – many nations are phasing-out this reciprocal agreement. Hence, if you are not old enough for a pension, you are not old enough for free healthcare. And if you are not in work, you are not eligible for free healthcare.

The Telegraph reported that those Brits who find themselves in such a position can no longer hop back to the UK to use the NHS as Britain looks to stamp down on this so-called ‘health tourism’.

“Many people don’t realise that once they move abroad then they can’t simply return for a holiday or to visit family and use the NHS for non-emergency treatment,” said Katrina Osman of IHC Employee Benefit. “If you live abroad for more than three months you don’t automatically qualify for NHS treatment, even if you still have a UK passport.”

This has actually been the case for a couple of years now, but the Telegraph warns that local authorities in the UK have begun to stamp down harder on such loopholes. The easy fix for Brits living in Spain is to ensure that you have the right healthcare paperwork in place. So if you do not currently work but live in Spain and are not yet of retirement age, be sure to apply for a residual S1 form before the July 1 cut-off date.

For more information about Healthcare in Spain, read VIVA’s dedicated section, which tells you all you need to know.