Everything You Want to Know About France and More...

Health care in France

General Information about the healthcare system in France

The health care system in France is financed by government national health insurance schemes although most Doctors operate as a private practice.   It is the Government that sets the prices that Doctors or other health practitioners may charge and a system of reimbursement is practiced.   The reimbursement level varies from treatment to treatment so for instance when you visit a Doctor, you will be asked to pay the cost of €23.00 but you will be reimbursed 70% and pay ultimately €6.6 (current as at December 2011), although long term illness or costly treatment may be reimbursed 100%.

Anyone legally resident in France must pay compulsory health insurance with the Government setting the rate for cover and negotiating directly with agencies regarding overall funding of health care in France.

Visitors from European Union countries are advised to get health insurance cover before travelling to France, UK visitors should obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling.  There have been many complaints about scam sites which charge to provide this card, it is free and valid for 5 years and although it won’t cover the full cost of all medical treatments it will cover a great deal – for more details and to request a card click here www.ehic.org.uk

Visitors from non-EU countries must take out private health insurance cover in order to benefit from France’s excellent state health service.

Finding a doctor in France

There are English-speaking doctors, dentists and opticians in most large cities and as English is taught in schools you’ll usually find that even in rural areas a little English is spoken.  There are several ways to find a doctor in France– your neighbours will normally happily recommend a local doctor as will the local pharmacy and the staff at the town hall or you can search in the French yellow pages for your area (Pages Jaunes http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/  ) and type in the key word in the Quoi, Qui section  “médécin”.

If you need a home visit this can be arranged.  If you’re on holiday and need a doctor ask at the hotel, holiday site or a neighbour etc to give you details or to call a local doctor.  You will have to pay for the visit but you will get reimbursed the same as for a surgery visit.

Finding a Hospital in France

Hospitals in France are clearly signposted in towns but can be few and far between in rural areas as follows: “Hôpital” or more commonly “Centre hospitalier”.  In bigger towns or cities, look for signs to the CHR (Centre hospitalier régional) or CHU (centre hospitalier universitaire).

A useful website to find a hospital is http://etablissements.hopital.fr – although not in English it’s fairly easy to use – if you need accident and emergency treatment click on the section on the right hand side listed as médecine d’urgence and choose your location from the drop down box at the top of the page.  If your problem is urgent call the emergency services for an ambulance (see details below).

Administrative formalities

When you visit the doctor or go to hospital in France, you will receive a signed “feuille de soins” (a statement of the treatment carried out), and possibly an “ordonnance” (a prescription).  You need to retain these as without them you won’t be able to claim reimbursement.  You will need to take the prescription (ordonnance) to a chemists, where you will have to pay for the items and claim reimbursement later.

Calling an ambulance in France

In the event of an emergency and the need for an ambulance the following numbers should be used:

15 – The national emergency number for medical aid. It will get you the SAMU service, with an ambulance (Service d’Aide Médical d’Urgence – Medical Emergency Aid Service). Be prepared to indicate exactly where you are located, and the circumstances of the incident.

18 – The general emergency number (like 999 in the UK or 911 US) which will get you connected to the most appropriate service.

 112 – This is the standard European emergency number,   you can call this number from anywhere in the European Union countries from your mobile, landline or payphone.  112 Emergency centres can use an interpretation service covering several languages.  The European Commission website advises that if you are unable to tell the 112 operator where you are they  will be able to locate you – within a few seconds for fixed calls and up to 30 minutes outside working hours for mobile calls so to help you to advise your location please see our useful words and phrases section.

Useful French vocabulary – words and phrases for an emergency

Emergency Une urgence
Help me Aidez moi
Help Au secours
My location is Ma localité est
Child Enfant
Elderly person Personne âgée
Baby Bébé
Accident Un accident
I have had an accident J’ai eu un accident
Doctor Un médecin
Where can I find a doctor’s surgery? Où est-ce qu’on peut trouver un cabinet médical ?
Need a doctor Besoin un médécin
Need an ambulance Besoin une ambulance
Prescription Ordonnance
Medicine Médicament(s)
Heart attack Crise cardiaque
Unconscious Perdre connaissance
Very sick Très malade
Chemists Une pharmacie
Ill, sick Malade
I am in labour Je suis en train d’accoucher
I’m very sore here / it hurts here J’ai très mal ici
Injured Blessé(e)
Bleeding Hémorragie



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