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Accessing Healthcare in France

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.

  • Accessing Healthcare in France

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    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:

    1) where you are

    2) who you are and your phone number

    3) what happened, and if it is still happening

    4) how many people need help

    5) whether there are any weapons involved

    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 the sea)

    32 37 (phone) or website – 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 in France. You can claim back around 70% of the standard treatment cost.

    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 or reimbursement.

    You 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 (co-ordinated 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.

    Contact 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 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 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.


    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.

    You 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 postcode (Information in French only).