Finding a Doctor

Find out how to register with a doctor, what to do in the event of an emergency and how to find English-speaking doctors in France...

English-speaking doctors, dentists and opticians can be found in most large cities. Doctors are established in private practices, often in residential apartment buildings, either alone or in a group. To find a doctor, search in the French yellow pages (Pages Jaunes) for "médécin". Doctors and specialists are not allowed to advertise in France. If you need to find a good doctor in France, ask around you for recommendations, or at your local pharmacy.

How to Register with a Doctor in France

Every person of 16 years and over living in France and benefiting from social security should choose an attending medical practitioner (médecin traitant). This doctor is responsible for your direct care and all referrals to other medical practitioners and specialists. 

If you don’t choose a doctor, you will find that reimbursement for consultations will be a lot lower than the standard rate (only 30% instead of 70%).  Under no circumstances are you assigned a doctor, you choose any doctor that you want, as long as the doctor agrees to this role. It doesn’t have to be a GP, it can be a specialist, in private practice or at a hospital or clinic, and need not be geographically close to you. The only stipulation is that an individual doctor is named, not an entire group practice (cabinet de groupe).

A referral is required to see a specialist doctor, and without a referral you will be reimbursed less by the health insurance fund. Note that it is not necessary to get a referral for visits to an ophthalmologist, psychiatrist (patients aged 16 to 25 years old only), stomatologist or gynaecologist. Under 16s do not need a referral to see a specialist.

For information on registering with a doctor, see Registering with a Doctor in France, found in the left hand side menu.

Changing an Attending Practitioner

You can change your chosen médecin traitant at any time with no penalty and no questions asked. Simply complete a new Déclaration de Choix du Médecin Traitant form with the new doctor and submit it to the CPAM office, or online at the doctor’s office providing you have your Carte Vitale with you. The new declaration simply cancels the preceding choice.

You can either select your doctor and fill in the Cerfa form No 12485*02 Déclaration de Choix du Médecin Traitant (declaration of choice of the attending practitioner), which they sign and stamp and send this form to your CPAM (Caisse d'Assurance Maladie) office. Alternatively the doctor can do it for you online, during a consultation, providing you have your Carte Vitale with you.

All members of a family are not obliged to nominate the same doctor. Anyone 16 years or older may approach the doctor of their choice; a declaration by people under 18 years must be signed by their parent or guardian.

It is recommended that a médecin traitant be chosen taking the following into account:

  • Their judgment is trustworthy
  • Making visits to them is easy and convenient

Responsibility of the Attending Practitioner

The attending practitioner is usually a General Practitioner (GP), and is the doctor who is consulted first for any medical issue. They are responsible for maintaining the medical file of patient's visits, diagnoses and examinations. They refer their patient to other care if necessary and collect and keep the information and results of consultations. They can coordinate medical follow-up.

All medical visits made by referral of the attending practitioner are reimbursed at the standard rate of 70 percent (or more, depending on the situation).

You are not obliged to get a specialist referral from the médecin traitant, however reimbursement will be lower than with a referral.

Claiming back Doctor's fees in France

When consulting a doctor, fees are paid upfront, except in specific circumstances, for example if you are over 6 months pregnant. In that case the doctor paid directly by the social security.

If you don’t have a health insurance card yet (called Carte Vitale), you will get a treatment form (feuille de soins) to send to your local health insurance office (CPAM). The CPAM then reimburses around 70 percent of the standard rate (tarif de convention) within five days; optional top up insurance (mutuelle) takes care of the majority of the remaining amount. For each consultation (for over 18s) a contribution of one euro is paid by the patient. This is referred to as the participation forfaitaire. The amount of the reimbursement depends on whether the doctor is in secteur 1 or secteur 2. Tariffs in secteur 1 are fixed (tarif de convention), whereas doctors in secteur 2 can charge the price they want (and the patient will still only be reimbursed for a percentage of the standard rate, which is lower than that for doctors in secteur 1).

Doctors are obliged by law to post their fees on the wall in their surgery. It must be clearly stated if the doctor is in secteur 1 or secteur 2. Certain consultations with a doctor are reimbursed at 100 percent (minus the participation forfaitaire), for example, compulsory children's check ups and if the person benefits from Couverture Maladie Universelle, CMU (Universal Health Insurance Coverage). CMU is granted to a person with little or no income and to people with a serious illness or health condition.

Medical treatments

Some treatments require prior approval (demande d'accord préalable) in order to be reimbursed by the CPAM. These include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Certain orthodontic treatments (under 16s only)
  • Long distance medical transport (over 150 Km) or multiple trips (four transports over 50 Km within two months)
  • Certain laboratory tests
  • Prosthesis
In all cases, the doctor informs the patient if this approval is required and provides all the necessary forms.

Ordre National des Médecins

The Ordre National des Médecins is the overseeing body for all medical doctors working in France. The website can be used to search for any discipline of medical practitioner in any part of France (searching for "English-speaking" doctors is not possible).

Note: The rules of the Ordre des Médecins prohibit us from publishing a list of English-speaking doctors and medical practitioners. We apologise for not being able to bring you this service.

Dental Procedures

For information on dentists, see the page Dentists in France from the menu on the left.

Eye Care

The cost of glasses or lenses are only covered if there is a prescription from an eye doctor (opthalmologiste). In some regions, the wait to see an eye doctor can be as long as seven months.

  • Detailed information about the different roles eye doctors, opticians and orthoptists have (in French)
Glasses and lenses are reimbursed, but only at a fraction of the actual cost.