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.
Visitors to France
Finding help in an emergency
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
Most emergency services and doctors speak English, but there is no guarantee. If possible, have a local person to assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful French phrases for emergencies and doctors appointments.
In France, a doctor has to confirm that you are really in need of an ambulance service, otherwise you’ll be charged. Alternatively, you could use a light medical vehicle (véhicule sanitaire léger – VSL) to get to hospital.
Other important phone numbers to note down:
- 15 – SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente) provides both ambulances and specialist medical teams. Only call SAMU for serious medical emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, neurological disorders, chest pains, sudden and severe pain and breathing difficulties
- 18 – fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) should be called in cases of medical emergencies, such as traffic and domestic accidents and recent trauma. The Sapeurs Pompiers should also be called when a victim is either difficult to reach or in a dangerous environment (fire, flood, landslide) or if their health condition is quickly deteriorating
- 17 – police (commissariat de police or gendarmerie)
- 196 – for sea emergencies (calling from land)
- VHF Channel 16 for emergency at sea (calling from the sea)
- 32 37 (phone) – the service helps you find the nearest duty pharmacy. Not all pharmacies in France are covered by the service yet
Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU
Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention. You can expect to be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
You should always buy enough travel insurance and make sure you have access to funding to cover any medical treatment abroad. Remember 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.
Currently, your EHIC enables you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in France at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, if you are staying there temporarily. If you are asked to pay for health services upfront, it is likely that you are not being treated under the state system.
EHIC does not cover certain costs, including:
- private treatment
- being brought back to the UK
- mountain rescue services
Make sure you're treated by a healthcare provider in the state system as you won't be covered for private healthcare. Make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider in France (conventionné). Conventionné practitioners can fall into either of these 2 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.
Provisional replacement certificate (PRC)
A PRC is a certificate demonstrating a person's entitlement to EHIC. If you need healthcare but do not have your EHIC with you, you can call Overseas Healthcare Services and ask them to send a PRC to show to the hospital. This will avoid you being directly charged.
Contact Overseas Healthcare Services:
UK: 0191 218 1999
Outside UK: +44 191 218 1999
(Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, UK time)
People with pre-existing health conditions
If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before visiting France. You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions to ensure you get the cover you need. If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU but may not work after that.
If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Make sure you take with you any documents about your health condition or medication.
If you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, see our section about seeking medical treatment in Europe.
You must pay the dentist directly. They will then fill out a treatment certificate (feuille de soins). The treatment certificate is necessary to claim any refunds in France. You can claim back around 70% of the standard treatment cost.
You can search for health professionals for the area you are staying in via l’Assurance Maladie website (information in French only).
If you are admitted to hospital, make sure you present your EHIC 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.
If 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.
- Find your nearest hospital in France (information in French only)
- Useful French phrases for medical terminology and anatomy
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.
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.
You can call 32 37 for information about duty pharmacies. It's a 24-hour phone service to help you find pharmacies in your area. You can also use their online service and search for pharmacies via postcode (information in French only).
Bringing your own medicines to France
Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.
You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad. Specific requirements also apply to:
- the information that you must take with you
- how you carry your controlled medicines
You can visit the GOV.UK website for more information about travelling with controlled medicines.
After the UK leaves the EU
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your access to healthcare when visiting France is likely to change.
If you are planning to visit France after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance and make sure that any insurance product you buy has the necessary healthcare coverage for any treatment you might require. UK citizens are always advised to take out travel insurance when going overseas, both to EU and non-EU destinations.
If you are currently using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU.
The UK government is seeking agreements with countries, including France, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after the UK leaves the EU.
This guide will be updated with further information on travelling to France as the circumstances change.
Working in France
Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU
If you have been resident in France for more than 3 months you may apply to be covered by the French healthcare system (PUMA) giving you the same access to healthcare as French nationals.
If you are a worker posted by a UK company to France, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in France. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:
National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
Telephone: 0300 200 3500
Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010
Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – closed weekends and bank holidays
For more information, see Planning your healthcare when moving abroad.
After the UK leaves the EU
If you have resided in France for longer than 3 months, you can apply to be covered by the French healthcare system (PUMA) giving you the same access to healthcare as French nationals.
Until the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals already living in France will be able to continue doing so without a residence permit but should start the application process for a residence permit. The application process is currently free of charge. Costs have yet to be determined for applications made after the UK leaves the EU. It is recommended that you take out private healthcare insurance until you are covered by the state system.
If you are a UK posted worker, you are likely to need to buy into the state system (if permissible) to continue to receive the healthcare you need on the same terms as a French national. Alternatively, you may need to obtain private healthcare insurance.
Pensioners in France
Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU
If you live in France and receive an exportable UK State Pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK.
You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate.
You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.
S1 certificate (formerly known as E106)
An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in the France. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.
After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states.
You should continue to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU.
You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:
- have worked and paid contributions in the UK
- receive some UK benefits such as pensions
Apply through the Business Services Authority for an S1 certificate.
For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.
Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.
After the UK leaves the EU
If you are resident in France, and have been for 3 months, you can apply to be covered by the French healthcare system (PUMA) giving you the same access to healthcare as French nationals. This card will give you access to all social security offerings.
Until the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals already living in France will be able to continue doing so without a residence permit but should start the application process for a residence permit. The application process is currently free of charge. Costs have yet to be determined for applications made after the UK leaves the EU. After 3 months of residency, you can apply to be covered by PUMA giving you the same access to healthcare as French nationals.
You can apply for French citizenship if you have permanently resided in France for the last 5 years (or 4 years if you are married to a French national).
Students in France
Until the UK leaves the EU, if you are going to study or are currently studying in France as part of a UK-recognised course, you may be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK government. You and any dependants will need an EHIC. The government always advises UK citizens to take out travel insurance when going overseas, both to EU and non-EU destinations.
Until the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals already living in France will be able to continue doing so without a residence permit but they should start the application process for a residence permit. The application process is currently free of charge. Costs have yet to be determined for applications made after the UK leaves the EU.
You should continue to buy travel insurance and ensure that any insurance product you buy has the necessary healthcare coverage for any treatment you might require.
Page last reviewed: 28 January 2019
Next review due: 28 January 2022