Last Thursday I queued for my resident certficate or "resdencia" at the Alicante Foreigners' Office run by the National Police Force. Whilst I waited at the front of the queue I heard the police officer guarding the gate say to tens of people "From Monday the system changes and you will be able to apply for a residencia at any National Police Station" - he would then go on to ask people where they lived and tell them which their nearest station was.
Maggie had, like me, been booked in for an appointment for the old style residencia card and she'd booked time off work to go and do it. Today was the day. We thought we had the choice of our local office in Elda (queue from 7.30am to get a ticket for the session that starts at 10am - or at least it was last time we tried it), go to Elche, where Maggie works, and where neither of us knew the system or go to Alicante which has always been the main office and where I knew the system from as recently as last week. We chose Alicante. Unfortunately, as of today, Alicante no longer issues residencias to pople who do not live in its immediate catchment area. We tried Elche too but they told us the same.
So not only did Maggie hold, in her hand, a letter calling her to an appointment that had been cancelled but the place she had been called to is no longer willing to issue paperwork to her. There will be lots of other foreigners making the same wasted journey to Alicante from all parts of the province.
Anyway, in a bid to salvage something from the morning I suggested we get our European Health Card (the replacement for the old E111) from the local Social Security office in Elche. We found it OK, waited about 90 minutes to be served and then were told that because we are both on temporary contracts we could only have temporary cover of up to three months in any one calendar year. We took what we could get.
Because I was a bit peeved about this I've just done a little research on the European Health Card. The legislation is exactly the same for the UK as it is for Spain. The validity of the card is at the discretion of member states (Spain chose 1 year for full time workers, 3 months for "temporary" workers and 4 years for pensioners, whilst the UK chose 4 years for everybody with some exceptions). The card can be issued to everyone within the health care system (in Spain that's workers, pensioners and their dependants whilst in the UK it's almost all residents).
So the same legislation, with only some very subtle differences at local level, has given me a much worse deal in Spain. I've always missed out on those Rail Card deals too!