seeing a doctor
In France, everyone is free to choose his/her doctor. General practitioners can be consulted for any health problem. If your problem is more specific, you can also consult a specialist. However, the French healthcare system requires that you first see a general practitioner, who will then prescribe, if necessary, your first consultation with the specialist (with the exception of dentists, ophthalmologists and gynaecologists who may be freely consulted, without a referral).
In France, there are two types of practitioners (including both general practitioners and specialists):
- Médecins conventionnés (“state-certified doctors”): Doctors who have signed an agreement with the Assurance Maladie (French national healthcare system). Most doctors in France fall into this category. Those persons covered by the French national healthcare system – or a private health insurance scheme based upon the reimbursement rates established by the Assurance Maladie – benefit from a greater rate of reimbursement by consulting this type of practitioner.
- Médecins non-conventionnés (“non-state-certified doctors”): These doctors have not signed an agreement with the Assurance Maladie. You will therefore not be reimbursed by the French national healthcare system when you consult this type of practitioner. However, your complementary or private health insurance may cover such consultation.
The Assurance Maladie website (www.ameli.fr) provides a listing of all doctors and specialists, indicating the particular category to which they belong to which avoids any unpleasant surprises.
Consult the listing
In France, medicines can only be purchased at a pharmacy. There are two types of medicine:
- Over-the-counter drugs: These medicines, sold at the pharmacy, do not require a doctor’s prescription. Your pharmacist can advise you which of these drugs to take, if you are sick or injured but were unable to consult a doctor. These medicines are not reimbursed by the Assurance Maladie (French national healthcare system). Their price may vary from one pharmacy to another.
- Prescription drugs: These medicines can only be purchased at the pharmacy, upon presentation of a doctor's prescription. These drugs are reimbursed by the Assurance Maladie, but the rate of reimbursement varies.
In France, the system of pharmacies de garde (“on-duty pharmacies”) allows you to purchase medicines in the event of a medical emergency outside the regular opening hours and on holidays. Drugs purchased at such a pharmacy may be more expensive. To locate the "on-duty pharmacies" nearest you, consult the website or call 3237 (24-hour hotline).
The French hospital system includes both public hospitals and private hospitals (clinics). All public hospitals and certain state-certified clinics have signed an agreement with the Assurance Maladie (French national healthcare system). This means that those persons covered by the national healthcare system – as well as certain insurance policies based upon the Assurance Maladie reimbursement rates – benefit from a greater rate of reimbursement if they are hospitalised at a public hospital or state-approved clinic rather than a private, non-state-certified clinic.
Consult the list of public hospitals in Lyon
Consult the list of public hospitals in Saint-Étienne