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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. In some cases, you may be able to ask for a refund when you are back in the UK.

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. 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 save you from paying any refundable costs up front and 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

Air Products: covers Yorkshire and Humberside, West Midlands and Wales. Call them on 0800 373 580.

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.

If you have had to pay for the cost of your care and have been unable to claim a refund during your stay in France you should contact the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) on 0191 218 1999 (Monday - Friday, 8am - 5pm) on your return to the UK. However, this process will take longer than claiming for a refund in France.

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.

You’ll also have to apply for an S1 form if you move to France but don’t work and don’t receive any UK benefits. In this case, you may be eligible for up to two-and-a-half years of state healthcare, paid for by the UK. For applications and advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday 8am-5pm).

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.

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Page last reviewed: 20/06/2013

Next review due: 20/06/2015

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Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015