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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in France

Each country’s health system is different and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access state provided healthcare in France at a reduced cost or sometimes free. It will cover you for treatment until you return to the UK. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered in France

Find help in emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should go to the accident and emergency (A&E) unit (les urgences) of the nearest hospital.

If you need an ambulance, dial 112 (or 114 hearing assisted). This is free of charge from any fixed or mobile phone.

It is important that you stay calm and provide the following details when calling emergency services in France:

  • where you are
  • who you are and your phone number
  • what happened, and if it is still happening
  • how many people need help
  • whether there are any weapons involved
Tip

Most emergency services and doctors speak English, but there is no guarantee. If possible, have a local person assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful French phrases for emergencies and doctors appointments.

Note: In France, a doctor has to confirm that you are really in need of an ambulance service, otherwise you’ll have to carry the cost of the ambulance transport. Alternatively, you could use a light medical vehicle (vehicule sanitaire leger – VSL) to get to hospital.

Other important phone numbers to note down:

  • 15 – SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence) the SAMU provides both ambulances and specialist medical teams. Only call SAMU for serious medical emergencies
  • 18 –  fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) can also be called in cases of medical emergencies, such as traffic and domestic accidents
  • 17 – police (commissariat de police or gendarmerie)
  • 112 – sea and lake emergencies (calling from land)
  • 1616 VHF Channel 16 for emergency at sea (calling from sea)
  • 32 37 (phone) or website www.3237.fr – the service helps you find the nearest duty pharmacy. Not all pharmacies in France are covered by the service yet.

Health services and costs

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment, so make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider in France (conventionné). Conventionné practitioners can fall into either of the following two categories:

  • Secteur 1: practitioners who charge the official social security rate. 
  • Secteur 2: practitioners who charge an extra fee on top of the official rate.

You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.

In any case, you must pay the practitioner (doctor or dentist) directly. They will then fill out a treatment form (feuille de soins) and a prescription if necessary. The treatment form is necessary to claim any refunds in France. You can claim back around 70% of the standard treatment cost.

TipRemember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

TipYou can search for health professionals for the area you are staying in via the l’Assurance Maladi website (information in French only).

As a visitor (non-resident) to France, you are not subject to French laws governing the parcours de soins (coordinated medical consultation procedure). This means you can consult a specialist directly without going through a GP first. To prove that the parcours de soins isn’t applicable to you and to avoid paying any additional charge, you should show the doctor (whether a GP or specialist) your European Health Insurance Card or Provisional Replacement Certificate.

However, if you move to France long-term or plan to work in the country, you’ll have to register with the local state health insurance company (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM). Look up the local institution according to your place of residence

Once you’ve registered, you’ll be issued a ‘carte vitale’ which you need to present when seeing a health professional or going into hospital. You’ll also have to pay a monthly health insurance premium as well as contributing to the costs when seeing a doctor. The parcours de soins will apply, meaning you’ll need a GP referral to see a specialist.

TipContact the Centre des Liaisons Européennes et Internationales de Sécurité Sociale (CLEISS) for more advice before you travel. Call 0033 1 45 26 33 41 from the UK or email webmestre@cleiss.fr. They provide information in French, English, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.

Hospital treatment

If you are admitted to hospital, make sure you present your EHIC or your ‘carte vitale’ on admission. This will ensure you only pay the patient contribution.

If you are admitted to a private hospital or clinic, try to ensure that it is also registered to provide state healthcare.

Generally, you will only have to pay a 20% co-payment towards your treatment, sometimes it will be free. Inpatients will have to pay a daily hospital charge of €18. If you are admitted to hospital and receive any major medical treatment, you will be charged a flat-rate contribution of €18 in addition to the daily hospital charge or the 20% co-payment.

TipIf possible, find out about treatment costs and reimbursement rates in advance. Some facilities apply a surcharge (dépassement d’honoraires) that is not covered by the French healthcare system. A few clinics are 'non conventionnées', meaning that their rates are not government regulated.

Prescriptions

You can obtain your medicines from any pharmacy (pharmacie) on presenting the feuille de soins and the doctor’s prescription. The price of the medicine is printed on a feuille de soins that the chemist will give back to you with the prescription. You pay the chemist directly. The vignettes (stickers) on the medicine packaging must be removed and stuck on the feuille de soins in the space provided – you cannot claim a refund without it.

Prescribed medicines are only reimbursable if they are listed as reimbursable pharmaceutical products. Reimbursement rates vary between 15% and 100 % of the sale price.

In most areas you’ll find at least one pharmacy that is open on Sundays or during out-of-office hours (pharmacie de garde/service de garde). Information about out-of-hours services are generally displayed in the shop windows of local pharmacies or newspaper agents.

TipYou can call 32 37 for information about duty pharmacies. It’s a 24 hr phone service to help you find pharmacies in your area. You can also use their online service and search for pharmacies via post code (Information in French only).

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

Although your EHIC covers the provision of oxygen, renal dialysis and routine medical care, you'll have to arrange and pre-book medical treatment before you go. You should always consult your GP or hospital before travelling. Also ensure you are not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the EHIC.

Oxygen therapy

Ensure your EHIC is valid before you travel. In most cases you will have to use the authorised oxygen company for the country you are travelling to. You’ll also have to make your own arrangements, including arranging for permission from your hotel to deliver and install the equipment. There may also be additional costs that the EHIC will not cover.

Your home oxygen supplier is not required to provide a service outside the UK, however, most suppliers will be able to advices you on what to do. Your oxygen treatment clinic will organise your home oxygen supply from one of these suppliers:

Air Liquid: Call them on:

  • 0808 143 9991 for London
  • 0808 143 9992 for North West
  • 0808 143 9993 for East Midlands
  • 0808 143 9999 for South West

Baywater Healthcare: covers Yorkshire and Humberside, West Midlands and Wales. Call them on 0800 373 580. For more information visit the Baywater Healthcare website.

BOC: covers the East and North East of England. Call them on 0800 136 603.

Dolby Vivisol: covers the South of England. Call them on 0500 823 773.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) may have additional oxygen contacts for the country you are travelling to. Their website offers general advice about how to make travel arrangements, including advice on:

Ensure you allow plenty of time to make all your arrangements before you travel.

Dialysis

You need to speak to the co-ordinator in your UK Dialysis Unit, who will contact the dialysis unit in France nearest to where you will be staying. The Renal Association offers a way to look up UK renal units and so does the Ligue Rein et Santé website (information in French only).

TipEnsure you make your arrangements according to your UK schedule. There also may be different guidance depending on what type of dialysis you receive. Make sure you speak to your doctor before you travel. In addition, visit the National Kidney Federation website, which offers general advice about travelling with a kidney disease, as well as specific guidance for haemodialysis patients, peritoneal dialysis patients, and guidelines for transplant patients.

Read more advice about travelling with other conditions:

How to claim refunds

Reimbursements are claimed from the local CPAM office (Caisse Primaire D‘Assurance Maladie) in France. You will need to provide the treatment form (feuille de soins) with stickers from the medicine packaging, copies of receipts and prescriptions, a copy of your EHIC, your address of residence and your bank details, including IBAN and BIC. Confirmation of your refund will be sent to your home address.

Living and/or working in France

Everyone living and working in France has to register with one of the state health insurance companies (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM). Once you’ve registered, you’ll be issued a ‘carte vitale’ which you need to present when seeing a health professional or going into hospital. You’ll also have to pay a monthly health insurance premium as well as contribution to the costs when seeing a doctor.

TipIf you need information about your French health insurance rights, call the special advice line provided by the l’Assurance Maladie. The service is provided in English. Call 0 811 36 36 46 from within France and 0033 811 36 36 46 from abroad.

Living in France

If you are living in France and you're receiving a UK state pension or are in receipt of long-term incapacity benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You’ll need to apply for form S1 (a certificate of entitlements). Once you have registered your S1 with CPAM in France, you will be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC, allowing you to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries besides the one in which you are resident, including when you return to the UK.

Early retirees

From July 1 2014 you are no longer able to apply for residual S1 form.
If you already have a residual S1 this will not affect you – it will continue to be valid until its original expiry date. Find out more about the new rules.

TipFor more advice about what UK and French benefits are available to Britons living in France and information on driving regulations, taxation and pensions visit the FCO website.

Working in France

If you are planning to work for more than two years and up to five years in France, your employer should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the following forms:

  • E101: this will show that tax and NI contributions are paid in the UK.
  • S1: this will give you and your family the same medical cover as French residents.

HMRC
Charity, Assets and Residence
Room BP1301
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

For more information, visit the working abroad section.

Comments

The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Shornoff said on 16 August 2014

Went to CPAM. They were good. 5 weeks later I got a cheque for 23 euros in the UK. Would have cost more than that to process it I think!

Next time we contacted Newcastle when we got home. Got a cheque, eventually after a lot of hassle for £15.

EHIC is designed to look good but not to work. Don't you just love politicians?

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Steve2492 said on 03 August 2014

While on holiday in France I have had to attend A&E at a hospital near Toulouse, and had to pay the clinic, the doctor, and for the medication prescribed. We have enquired about getting reimbursement from the local CPAM and we told that we needed the following;
The completed feuille de soins with the vignettes attached
Separate receipts for all fees paid
The prescription
A copy of the EHIC
The accompanying paper part of the EHIC (which I do not remember getting)
An accompanying letter, in French, with all details of why I needed emergency treatment, all contact details and bank account details (IBAN)

These all need to be sent to the local CPAM office for a partial refund, and we were told it would take a long time. I also do not have separate receipts or the paper part of the EHIC (?)

It would seem that the EHIC is not much help in France, better to make sure you have good travel insurance :-(

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romill said on 20 July 2014

spelling error in "EHIC Changes" window. "Recieved"??

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Page last reviewed: 20/06/2013

Next review due: 20/06/2015

EHIC changes

You will no longer be able to claim a refund in the UK for most patient co-payments for treatment received after July 1 2014

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