HEALTHCARE IN TURKEY – Living in the UK, we are often told how great our health service is and how lucky we are to live here and be benefiting from it. In many ways this is true, if you require genuine emergency care, once you manage to access a clinician, you will generally find their skills to be excellent and the care delivery should be expected to be derived from researched and proven treatment and care methods. It is very different from healthcare in Turkey.

Other aspects of primary care, however, are often a different matter. Trying to get a timeous NHS dental or GP appointment in many parts of the UK is a challenge and given that the GP is the gate keeper to consultant services (even when you want to ‘go private’), one can hear many stories of how their referral took a very long time, often with serious conditions becoming worse due to the passage of time while waiting.


This is one thing I found to be less of an issue in Turkey and many people are pleasantly surprised if they have had to receive care when in Turkey. The main comments of pleasant surprise I hear from customers are about the speed at which they are dealt with on arrival at the hospital, and the fact that they were able to independently access a specialist Doctor for known conditions without having to ask permission for this appointment via a third party. Regardless of individual thoughts on patient pathways, this lack of middle man bureaucacy, in real terms, means the patient can have a quicker diagnosis and subsequently, quicker treatment. The outcome is obvious; a shorter healing process and less patient trauma.

Of course, nothing is perfect, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) reviewed healthcare in Turkey in recent years and they concluded that in many respects, mainly administrative information sharing and standardisation, there were improvements that could be made to reach the gold standard. However, the major developments in the care of mothers and children and the way in which pubic health (infectious diseases) is dealt with was praised as a great success.

Although the Turkish healthcare system has come under scrutiny and criticism in the past, it has certainly redeemed itself and in record time.  Unlike the UK, the current Turkish healthcare system allows end users to receive care both in the public and private system, with most private hospitals being able to bill the state for the majority of the patients care under the SGK (national insurance) system, with the patient paying a small percentage from their own pocket when they choose a private provider. This alleviates queues in the state system and allows those who can afford it the choice of another route to treatment and frees up that space in the public system for those who cannot afford to pay and are wholly reliant on the state system.


The Turkish Government’s 2003 initiative has achieved Universal Health Coverage, the Family Physician System and this Health Transformation Programme has meant that everyone has access to care. Expats who choose to live in Turkey also benefit from this; where previously they would have needed to have had private insurance cover with all of the restrictions that private companies put in place, now they have access to the SGK system and the comfort of knowing they can go to any hospital with the added bonus that, in Turkey, they can self refer and make a direct appointment with the specialist of their choice. (please investigate further to see what suits your individual set of circumstances). You can even go out of area, e.g. if you hear of a great Doctor in the University Hospital in Antalya and you live in Fethiye, there is no barrier to you making a direct appointment with this Doctor.

This, in my opinion, is great. Real patient choice that actually means you choosing for yourself and feeling empowered to take matters into your own hands. And why not? The World Bank Income Classification for Turkey is ‘Upper Middle’ , so there are plenty of people with disposable income and if you can afford to pay a percentage of the cost when you opt out of the state system for some procedures, surely you have the right to have the bulk of the cost paid for by your government when they are happy to receive your SGK (National Insurance) contributions. They are helping you to be less of a burden on the state system, they are helping you to exercise your right to choose and I know that many in European countries, including the UK would love to have this luxury of choice.


At Keyholders International, we are often asked about Healthcare Provision by people who are considering Turkey for their overseas home but are still unsure because they don’t have the knowledge required to make an informed choice with regards to their care needs. I am at a great advantage to advise because I have experienced the heathcare system in Turkey from the Patient’s perspective and I have also experienced it in the UK, both as a patient and as a former Healthcare Manager.

I have great regard for the way it is done in Turkey, I like being able to choose and if you do too, you should consider Turkey if you’re looking to settle in the sun but like the comfort of a good healthcare service at your disposal. For UK citizens in particular, the looming unkown of Brexit makes Turkey an even better choice as it is not part of the EU and so, when Brexit is finalised there will be no unknown with Turkey. It will remain the same for UK citizens.

Contact us if you have any questions or are considering buying a home in Turkey.

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