This page offers general and useful information
tourists needing medical help, or wanting to see a doctor in France. A
benign medical incident can sometimes become a disaster when a
traveller doesn't know how to find help. The
information below will help you prepare your trip to France, and let
you know what to do if you need to call a doctor, or take someone to
: this is the national emergency number for medical aid. It will get
you the SAMU service, with an ambulance (Service d'Aide
d'Urgence - or Medical Emergency Aid Service). Be prepared to indicate
exactly where you are located, and the circumstances of the incident.
this is the general emergency number, like 999 in the UK, which will
get you connected to the most appropriate service.
this is the standard European emergency number. Though be careful, if
you are near a land border, for instance in Alsace, a call to 112 from
a mobile phone may get directed to the emergency services in the
For more emergency numbers in Paris, see column right.
you travel - health insurance & the EHIC card :
Visitors from European Union countries (i.e. the United Kingdom,
Ireland, etc.) are strongly advised to make sure that they have health
insurance cover before travelling to France or any other foreign
country. For France, UK visitors should obtain the European Health Insurance Card
(EHIC), which has replaced the old E 111 form.
EHIC, which is usually issued for up to five years, covers any medical
treatment you may need during your visit to France, as a result of
accident or sickness. The card gives access to treatment by doctors,
dentists, and in public hospitals, or private clinics operating within
the French "sécurité sociale" (health service)
that the EHIC does not normally cover the full cost of medical
treatment in France or other countries; the NHS recommends that all
travellers also take out private health insurance, to cover the
who do not
come from EU countries must take out private health insurance cover in
order to benefit from France's excellent state health service.
a doctor / hospital / ambulance in France
has a dense network of medical practitioners, and there are doctor's
surgeries (doctor's offices - for Americans) (called "cabinets")
even in very small towns. Many doctors operate joint practices, though
many have their own private surgeries / offices. To find a doctor, ask
resident, or find a chemists and enquire. In theory, you can
to the surgery of any GP during opening hours.
The number of hospitals in France is falling, as cost-cutting
measures are introduced; but it is still possible to find a hospital
with some kind of accident or emergency service in most medium-sized
towns. Look for signs for "Hôpital" or (why use one word when
possible!) "Centre hospitalier". In bigger towns or cities, look for
signs to the CHR (Centre
hospitalier régional) or CHU (centre hospitalier universitaire).
if the patient is too sick to move, a doctor will make a home visit.
Ask your hotel / campsite / gite owner or neighbour to call a local
medic. The cost is slightly higher than a surgery visit; payment and
refunding are the same as for a surgery visit.
night time calls:
in all big towns, and some smaller ones too, doctors and chemists'
remain on duty by rota. Local gendarmeries (police stations) can
usually provide the phone number of the duty doctor and chemists (médecin de garde,
pharmacie de garde);
alternatively, ring round local chemists shops until one answers.
Doctors are often quite happy to do night calls; often these are done
by young doctors, who appreciate the extra payment for coming out at
If you see a doctor, or a hospital, you will be given a signed "feuille de soins"
(a statement of the treatment carried out), and possibly an "ordonnance"
(a prescription). These must be kept carefully, as you will
to send them in in order to claim reimbursement. You will need to take
the "ordonnance" to a chemists, where you will have to pay for the
items. If you have an EHIC card, you will be reimbursed later, (see
below), and your medicines will probably end up costing you quite a bit
less than they would have cost in the UK.
The current cost of a standard visit to a GP (general practitioner) in
France is 23 € (Spring 2014) . For payment and
below. Visits to specialists and to the hospital cost more, as do home
visits and visits at night and weekends.
There is a non-refundable daily hospital board and lodging
of 18€, called the forfait hospitalier; this is in addition to
medical fees. Note that French hospitals do not generally have wards.
In-patients are most commonly accommodated in twin rooms, though
sometimes rooms with up to four beds. Single rooms can usually be
obtained, at an extra cost that may or may not be reimbursed.
and getting reimbursed:
The standard principle of the French health service is "pay first,
reclaim, then get reimbursed"; but for this does not always apply in
the event of hospital treatment.
Travellers with an EHIC card
will be refunded about 70 per cent of standard doctors' and dentists'
fees, and between 35% and 65% of the cost of most prescribed medicines.
Some common items such as bandages and comfort medicines are refunded
at the lower rate, or not at all.
Doctors visits and
hospital out-patient treatment: Unless you are the holder of a French
"Carte Vitale" (available to certain foreign residents) you must pay
for treatment and then claim a partial refund from the local
Health Insurance Office (Caisse Primaire d'Assurance-Maladie
CPAM) in France. Ask the doctor / hospital for the address of the local
If you are treated as an in-patient in an approved hospital (state
hospital or recognised private clinic) and show your EHIC
the cost of your stay and treatment will mostly be paid directly
by the CPAM to the hospital. You will just be billed for the balance,
plus the fixed daily hospital charge ('forfait journalier'); these are
non-refundable under EHIC, which is why it is important to have private
health insurance cover as well.
If you do not
have an EHIC card, you will need to pay for your health care and
contact your private insurance for reimbursement. In the event of
hospitalisation, check with your insurer.
information: The CPAM of
the Haute Vienne department, in the west of France, has a
useful website in English, giving full details of procedures, rates,
Essential medical terms in French:
un médecin [earn med-sanne]
Where's there a doctor's surgery? Où
est-ce qu'on peut trouver un cabinet médical ?
[oo eskonn peur trouvay ern cabinay may-dicarl ]
Ill, sick: malade [ma-larde]
Chemists : une
I'm very sore here / it hurts here: J'ai très mal ici [zhay
tray mall eesee]
We need to find a doctor urgently. Nous
avons besoin de voir un médecin au plus vite. C'est urgent.