Written by Alexis Goldberg,
19th April 2023

Overall, the French healthcare system is efficient and effective. However, in some areas, there are not enough doctors. We look at the impact that this has had on French healthcare and the solutions the government are proposing. Furthermore, we offer tips for navigating French healthcare, especially if you are in an area that is low on doctors. 

doctor with a France symbol

France has a superb healthcare system.

The French healthcare system is well known to be one of the most efficient and comprehensive in the world.

Fortunately, if you are moving to France with little French, many doctors and other medical personnel in towns and cities speak some English. Even in some villages many will have a basic knowledge of English, such is the demand from British people living in France.

However, the UK is not the only country with problems needing addressing in the health service. France is under pressure too. President Macron has pledged to make it a priority to find ways of attracting more doctors to areas which do not have enough. There are as many as 40 departments which are currently below the accepted threshold of 40 doctors for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Finding a doctor may be a little tricky as it is true there are certain parts of the country where there is a dearth of doctors. It is probably best to go on recommendation either by your neighbours, pharmacy or the mairie in order to find a local doctor. They do not advertise in France at all.

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What efforts are being made to address the shortage?

Late last year President Macron announced that since many French citizens did not have access to a local GP. So, he is making plans to offer a cash bonus to doctors willing to move to areas where there are not enough doctors. This created hope that the problem would be eased.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many doctors who practise currently in France are close to retirement age. President Macron has offered an incentive in the form of doctors who are retiring will not have to pay new pension contributions or social charges. There is also some talk of a financial benefit for any doctor willing to take up his practice in one of the medical desert areas.

Currently, there is an investigation into other ways to entice doctors to move to areas that lack them. For example, by improving the infrastructure and the transportation. Any GP with a family is going to want to be somewhere which has a lot to offer in terms of culture, business, schooling and good transport links after all.

The good news

Although the lack of doctors in some rural areas is a problem, the good news is that French healthcare remains one of the best in the world. A visit to a GP remains at around €25 and once you are in possession of your “Carte Vitale” up to 70% of any treatment will be reimbursed to you.

vitale card

Carte Vitale is a little green and yellow card with a microchip. It allows you to be reimbursed for things like doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. You get one if you are a French resident or if you have been in the country for three months or more.

Most people in France have health insurance, the price of which varies widely depending on how far you want to go: whether to include optics, dentistry and niceties such as transport to and from hospital, a private room etc. The system has historically worked very well and anyone who holds a “carte de sejour” or is a French citizen is entitled to take advantage of it. Care is first class; the French tend to leave no stone unturned when it comes to medical matters.

Making an appointment

Although the French healthcare system is renowned for being first class, it can be complicated as French bureaucracy is also renowned for being somewhat tiresome! However, you do not actually need to register with a doctor in France; you are at liberty to make an appointment with any doctor you choose although some are obviously busier than others. You can do this online now through the site “doctolib”.

Where are the parts of the country are short of doctors?


We would encourage you to research the medical coverage in the area you are moving to, especially if it is rural.

There is not just one particular spot which is worse off in terms of the ratio of doctors to patients than another in France. Rather, there tends to be a shortage of doctors in some villages in random parts of the country. That said, it is worth pointing out that there are some notable areas which are worse off than others and these include parts of Brittany as well as the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and Picardie in the north and also in parts of the old regions of Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire. The south tends to fare better and the Paris region does not have a shortage of doctors.

Some small villages have more than one doctor, others have none. If you move somewhere that does not have any, you will have to seek out a practice in neighbouring villages and towns. If you are concerned about medical coverage in your area, it is wise to do some research before you get to France to find out where your nearest medical practice may be. A good rule of thumb is to be within say a half hour of a reasonable sized town.

On a positive note, there is a great deal being done to attract younger doctors to areas where they are most needed and although this will take some time, the fact does remain that the healthcare system in France is one of the best in the world.

How to claim healthcare in France as a non-resident

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