Our French Life

Carry On Doctor

kenneth williams

Now, at some stage in your new life in France you will need to pay the doctors a visit. Unless, of course, you’re a bloke as they tend to only visit when they’re actually dying or have been dragged there. The rest of us tend to go willingly and with kids in tow.

So, when we came over I was aware that there would be so much going on with renting/moving 3 x before finally moving into our home. Plus getting the kids settled in school, french lessons, the renovation and what not.  I wasn’t going to add to my blood pressure readings by trying to do everything else i.e set up a business, claim child benefit, change our number plates and obtain the golden ticket – the carte vitale. Don’t even get me started on people’s “ooooh have you paid into the system?” “ooooh if not you can’t get health care”. What is wrong with people? Would these same people happily stand over you, wagging their self-righteous finger whilst you took your last breath, saying “have you paid into the system because it’s my business you see and if you haven’t sorry you can’t get treatment”.

Listen up. No doctor is going to let you die with or without your carte vitale.  And guess what? The person on the forum isn’t going to the doctors with you to stop you getting treatment. In their little keyboard warrior, freezing cold farmhouse that they bought “because you couldn’t get this in the UK” (what you mean central heating and a life?) they are but in the real world they’re not.

It’s not a golden ticket this healthcare. Everyone should be entitled to health care in any country in the world but in particular a first world country.  So please chill out about it if you’ve just moved over. You can get a doctor’s appointment, you will get a doctor’s appointment, you can go to A&E and you can get life saving treatment. The doctors, nurses and pharmacists I’ve come across actually don’t give two hoots about where you are in the bureaucracy vortex. They want to treat you. End of.

carte vitale
You will get your Carte Vitale one way or another – so in the meantime, chill out! This dude is

Furthermore, if you’ve lived in the UK then I’m taking a wild guess that you’ve probably paid into NI contributions all your life. Plus the last time I checked, you live in the European Union whereby this means you are entitled to health care. Poor people get 100% health care in both countries and that’s how it should be

Disclaimer – off topic be back in mo…

Oh and by the way I’m never going to want an abandoned frigging kitten! Sorry. Not sorry. I don’t mind animals and if I did want to add stuff to my “to do list” I would buy a cow. I like the cows so I do. The brown and cream ones are my favourite but guess what?! I can see them all the time. So nope. I don’t want chickens that lay too many eggs so that I have to bake excessively or try and sell them on facebook. Seriously the other day someone was trying to get 1 euro an egg. Hold the phone. Give me 12, yes 12 for 12 euros said no person ever. I can get 12 in Lidl for about 2.40 euros.  Why an earth am I going to give you 12 euros?! I don’t want a goat (well not just yet) they have creepy damion eyes, a donkey or a dog just yet. And no I’m not getting a Spanish rescue dog that will probably attack my child. Yes we live in the countryside but no I don’t need a farm in my house. Not yet in any event. I want to go and explore France and go on holiday. I don’t need to be worrying about the farm animals. I have gone off on one so back to the doctors.

And she’s back..

I made sure all our EHIC’s (although I call them E111’s as I still think 2006 was like 3 years ago) were up to date before we left and carried them in my purse.  I have touched on this subject here. This means I was able to get around the fact I hadn’t obtained my carte vitale the moment my foot landed on French soil.  I did keep all the doctors receipts but prior to getting a temporary social security number, I wrongly assumed I could claim it back. I have to claim it back via the UK. So NHS expect something in the post.

So our commune works like this. There is no person sitting in reception at the doctors. This was quite strange when we first arrived. En mass we went to the doctor’s surgery to book an appointment, for my son, who needed a medical certificate.

Most sports and some schools will require your child to have a medical certificate. My son joined a cycling club as soon as we got here. In order for him to get his race licence we needed to get this certificate.

So we all traipsed in expecting to see the same kind of set up as in the UK – but all we did was startle 5 patients sitting in the waiting room. We said a quick bonjour and left. We have to phone our doctors to book an appointment.  Much like the UK I can get an appointment more or less when it suits.  I understand there are different charges for different services i.e a home visit would cost you more than the standard 25 euros surgery visit.

Now, once you have your carte vitale you will get the majority of that back and the rest will be refunded via your ‘mutelle’ that is your top up health insurance. I’ve yet to get a quote on this but I’m bracing myself and will let you know what this covers and how much it is.

So yes, our first visit was for the medical certificate. We were quite the novices when we arrived. Firstly you have to ring the door bell before you enter. This is, I’m assuming, to let the doctor know that you’re in the waiting room. Just like the doctors in the UK (for me at any rate) there’s a 20 minute wait over your alloted time – 90% of our visits have been like this.


Do not attempt to bisous (kiss) or shake your doctor’s hand! He’s probably had his fill of coming into contact with germs you don’t want to add to his woes. Plus it would be #awkward.

There are two doors to our doctors room. He gestured to me to shut the door once and I’m thinking what? I’ve shut the door!? But there is another door see – no not bullet proof – sound proof. Anyhow, he’s there with his computer screen, his mobile phone and his credit card machine. This is so bizarre but you soon get used to it.

Now I can’t work out if my doctor is the same age or a bit younger or older than me but I’m going to plump for 40 ish. That’s a bit weird as back in the UK they either looked 15 full of enthusiasm and energy for their new role as doctor or they were jaded and a lot older. I actually liked the anonymity of it all and the surprise. Who you gonna get? The good doctor or the not so. You really didn’t know who you would get from one visit to the next. Although the NHS are very good at saying “if it doesn’t get better come back” rather than preventative care. That I don’t miss.

feuille de soin
Feuille de soin – aka doctors receipt
Not to be confused with mille feuille – a vanilla slice except it’s bloody custard here and I don’t do custard!

I think overall this will be a good thing  – I’ll have one doctor for the entire family so over time he will get to know us all. As a woman, this might be slightly #awkward and I might want to see a woman for ladies problems. However, I’m pretty sure I will just get referred to the various specialists you have access to. I’m hoping so as he doesn’t have a nurse on stand by.

The medical certificate did provide us with much hilarity much to the doctor’s bemusement. My son had to take his top off and do quick squats on the doctors bed – then he was hooked up with all manner of wires to check his heart rate etc. He looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. Again, this had us in fits. This is all normal procedure but we had never seen this type of thorough checking before! So yes, you get a brown form called your recepit – ordinarily you’d give your carte vitale at the end but if you don’t then your credit card/bank card if you please.

So, I repeated this for my youngest who also decided to join the cycling club. Again much giggles and another 25 euros. Then we had a quiet period until December. My youngest had a cough for about 3 weeks turns out he had bronchitis – 25 euros. Plus I also wanted some inhalers for me. He gave me a prescription which allowed for me to get 3 inhalers within 3 months. Whilst I was at it, I mentioned the pins and needles I get in my wrist – he made a referral to a specialist that would give me steroid injection. Yes just like that! I haven’t bothered to go as it’s got better. So it in effect it became a double appointment – another 25 euros.

I was given some antibiotic tablets for Buddy but had to come back the next day to see if they’d taken effect (no charge) – nope they hadn’t so we were given liquid antibiotics. However, he wanted me to take him to hospital if it wasn’t better at the weekend. Thankfully, his cough did get better but having already had a very positive experience in A&E I knew that if I did have to go there I wouldn’t have to wait 5 hours to be seen.

I did return a few days later as, yes you guessed it another 25 euros, my Buddy is like L’oreal  – he’s worth it. His chest was clear. By the way, you exit a different door to that of the one you come in.

Next up on the doctors visits was vaccinations. Now the timings of the UK and French vaccinations are different. So whilst initially this was for Master Normandy who is now 14, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and get Miss Normandy vaccinated at the same time. No, there’s no discount for this. However, for that 50 euros I can definitely claim it back as we now have temporary social security numbers which is pre the golden ticket aka carte vitale.

The French immunisation time table is different to that of the UK. If you have children you can check the graph below as to what age you will need to get their jabs. My eldest was due his ‘teenager’ jab at 14 in the UK – here it’s called the DPT jab – the name of the vaccination is the same though it’s called Revaxis. Here this jab is given earlier from age 11-13 so my son was a year late to the jab party!

In summary then, we’ve been here a year in May and I’ve spent 175 euros at the doctors for a family of 5. In addition, probably about 50 euros at the chemist. My inhalers are cheaper here – 5 euros per prescription- and that’s at the non-discounted rate. In fact, I think someone told me you can get sent on holiday in the alps if you have asthma as it’s considered a life time illness. Mr Normandy said “it’s worth having asthma just for that!”

In fact, the money I’ve spent will probably equate to one month’s premium for our top up insurance. So, if you’re trying to budget for a move I’d say allow 30 euros a month for a family of five for any doctors vists or medication.  That should more than cover you.

I like the system here. I can get an appointment for all my family, I’m seen relatively quickly, it’s just a stones throw from our house and I know that we’re going to be referred for scans/check ups etc immediately and not wait months and months to see what’s wrong. I have to say this is a massive reason to move to France. With talk of shutting down Croydon’s A&E with a population of over 300,000 and having to drive through London to get Tooting – seriously you’re not getting the 7 mile distance in under 40 minutes. I’m not gonna lie – this did start to play on my mind the older me and Mr Normandy were getting.

I will write more about the doctors, mutelles and our experience at A&E (two visists now) but if you need to get health care in France here are some useful links.

PUMA Health Insurance – French Property Website

Health Care for Self Employed – French Property

French Job Centre Site – you can access the healthcare system and other benefits like French lessons by registering with your local job centre

Ameli.fr – the official website for healthcare in English

Speak to Fabien – an excellent broker at Pepite Courtage for your mutelle and other insurances











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