Hospitals, Clinics and Pharmacies

Information about medical treatment in hospitals and clinics and how to find a pharmacy, including 24 hour pharmacies...

Emergency rooms (services d'urgence) are available in most hospitals and in some private clinics.

  • In an emergency, call for an ambulance, Tel: 112
  • Go to the services d'urgence entrance at the hospital or clinic

When you go to a hospital in France, take your carte vitale and your private health insurance details if you have a  French top-up insurance called mutuelle. If you are not resident in France, you will need to provide a European Health Insurance card if you are an EU citizen, or proof of private health cover. If you don’t have private health insurance, you will be liable to pay all medical bills.

For treatment, you can choose between state hospitals and private clinics. Hospital fees are reimbursed up to 80 percent by the CPAM, whether at a hospital or a private clinic. Patients must pay the remaining 20 percent - called the ticket modérateur - when they leave the hospital, unless they are covered by the PUMA (Universal Health Coverage for those on low incomes). These costs are generally covered by a mutuelle. After 30 days of hospitalisation, the CPAM reimburses 100 percent of hospital fees.

After the first 24 hours of hospitalisation, you must also pay a daily fee (forfait journalier) which is not reimbursed. Since 1 January 2018, this is fixed at 20 euros per day. Anaesthetists and surgeons in private clinics may charge additional fees (dépassements d'honoraires). These fees are not reimbursed by social security. There are some exemptions. Some mutuelles reimburse part or all of these fees, however, prior approval is generally required.

It is highly recommended that you take out top-up insurance in France if you don’t have CMU. The ticket modérateur can become very expensive after a few days in hospital, and a mutuelle will cover all costs related to hospitalisation. Most mutuelles also pay up to a certain amount per day (forfait) for private rooms. 

Pharmacies and Medicines

Pharmacies in France are generally open from Monday to Saturday from 08:30 to 19:30. Many pharmacies close between 12:00 and 14:00, although in shopping centres and large towns, pharmacies will stay open non-stop. At least one local pharmacy will be open on Sundays and public holidays in France. Details of, and schedule for this "duty pharmacy" (pharmacie de garde) can be found in every pharmacy window, in local newspapers or by contacting the local commissariat.

  • To find a duty pharmacy, Tel: 32 37 - Enter or validate your area postcode when prompted; then choose  the time a pharmacy is required when prompted. The details of available pharmacies are given.

Pharmacy costs and prescriptions in France

Prescriptions for medicine can be filled at a pharmacy, and in some cases at a hospital pharmacy. If you have your prescription and your health card (Carte Vitale) you don’t have to pay upfront for the entire cost of medicines that are reimbursed. The pharmacy is paid directly by the health insurance fund - this system is called tiers payant. In addition, if you have top-up insurance (mutuelle), and you benefit from tiers payant, you don’t have to pay any of the costs up front - the pharmacist and mutuelle are reimbursed directly. If you don’t have your carte vitale, you will be given a form to send off to the local health insurance fund for reimbursement.  Medicines for certain chronic medical conditions and fertility treatments are reimbursed at 100 percent.

In an effort to reduce health costs, generic medicines are becoming more readily available. If a pharmacy has a generic medicine in stock and you refuse this, the CPAM will reimburse a smaller percentage of the cost of the medicine and you cannot benefit from the tiers payant. There is a fee (or franchise) of 50 centimes for each packet or bottle of medicine that you are prescribed. You don’t have to pay this at the pharmacy if you benefit from the tiers payant, it is deducted at a later date from any reimbursements that are paid into your bank account, for example the next time you are reimbursed following a medical appointment. This doesn’t apply to medicines for children under that age of 18.

Over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and cough medicines can only be purchased at a pharmacy, you won’t find these in supermarkets like in some other countries. 

Useful vocabulary at the pharmacy

  • I feel sick (nauseous)  - j’ai la nausée
  • I have stomach ache - j’ai mal au ventre
  • I have a temperature/fever - j’ai de la fièvre
  • I have sunburn - j’ai un coup de soleil
  • Plasters / bandages - sparadrap / pansement
  • Pharmacy or chemist - une pharmacie
  • Prescription - une ordonnance