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Healthcare in France

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
French France Doctors Pharmacy

The French are the world's greatest consumers of anti-depressants and antibiotics.

Healthcare provision in France is excellent. Once you have assimilated yourself to the system according to your employment situation, you will be able to utilise the state of the art facilities and high quality treatment.

Doctors in France

If you do not need to go to hospital but require over the counter medicines or a prescription form a doctor, you can use the pharmacies and doctors before you have completed the necessary paperwork to be a full member of the French health system. You can go to any doctor you chose, although many expats prefer to seek an English speaking doctor until they are more comfortable with the language.

Doctors and medical professionals are not legally allowed to advertise based on languages spoken, so you are more likely to find a suitable doctor through recommendation.

You are usually able to see a doctor very quickly - often the same day, if not the next. There is a standard charge per visit of €22, which is reimbursed when you are part of the system, with an E106 from the UK or through French means. If necessary, you will be given a prescription to take to a pharmacy. If you have a regular medicine in the UK, it is a good idea to take the packaging or paper insert with you so the French doctor can prescribe you a similar product.

French Pharmacies

When in France, you are never far from a well-stocked pharmacy, staffed by a trained pharmacist who will be happy to give you advice on over the counter medicines.

You may be surprised to know that there is no equivalent in France of the well-known British high street chemist, where you can pick up pain killers, shampoo and make up all under one roof, with perhaps the odd 'buy one get one free' thrown in for good measure.

French pharmacies are lovely, if not frustrating, places. You are able to buy many brands of skincare that are not available in the UK, which make wonderful gifts for female friends and relatives. Browsing is not really encouraged though, so you will be asked what you want practically as soon as you enter the shop.

The word 'generic' is helpful in French pharmacies as brand name medicines are far more expensive than their generic counterpart. In French, it is pronounced 'gen-air-reek'.

Hospitals in France

French hospitals are bight, modern and clean. As a rule, you do not find the lengthy waiting times in France, either for appointments or emergency services. If you are unfortunate enough to require a trip to A&E in France, you will be seen quickly. If you have not yet gained assimilation to the French healthcare system but need to attend A&E, you will not be refused, but simply sent an invoice. This is not as scary as some people think, with costs of around €60 for a badly cut arm needing stitches and a bandage, for example.

Health Insurance

French nationals are automatically assimilated into the French healthcare system in relation to their working situation. British expats can gain the same rights through applying for the relevant forms from the UK Department for Work and Pensions or the French system directly if you are working in France. You will be issued a 'carte vitale', a green credit card type card with a microchip containing your personal details. You will hand this to your doctor and pharmacist to ensure you are not charged the full amount. Usually, you will pay the outstanding 15 - 40%.

This outstanding amount is also fully refundable if you do as the majority of French people do and buy a 'top up' insurance policy. This is called a 'mutuelle' and there are a vast number of companies to choose from. You will see this word up and down French high streets. The companies do not tend to be particularly different from each other in that the government regulates their charges. You may choose one on the basis that they speak English or are local to you.

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