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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 (which applies to 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. People 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 higher rate of reimbursement when 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 AMELI provides a listing of all doctors and specialists, indicating the particular rate in order to avoid any unpleasant surprise.

Recommended as well is the website Doctolib where you can search for doctors based on their field of experience and based on the part of town you are living in. Afterwards, you can filter by spoken languages. On each profile, you can see the type of rate the generalist/specialist applies. You will find also the possibility to take an appointment online.


In France, medicine can only be purchased at a pharmacy. There are two types of medicine:

  • Over-the-counter drugs: Such medicine, sold at the pharmacy, does 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. Such medicine will not be reimbursed by the Assurance Maladie (French national healthcare system). Its price may vary from one pharmacy to another.
  • Prescription drugs: This medicine 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.

“On-duty pharmacies”

In France, the system of pharmacies de garde (“on-duty pharmacies”) allows you to purchase medicine 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 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 people 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 at a private, non-state-certified clinic.

Consult the list of public hospitals in Lyon
Consult the list of public hospitals in Saint-Étienne