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A decade before France has more doctors, admits health minister

François Braun said he would look to free doctors of ‘absurd’ administrative tasks to ease the situation

France is working to reduce the administrative load on doctors but it may be a decade before the shortages abate, the health minister said Pic: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

France may not see a significant increase in doctor numbers for another 10 years, the country’s health minister has admitted, as he explained plans to reduce GPs’ load of time-consuming administrative tasks.

“The truth is that we won’t see more doctors within the next 10 years,” said François Braun to FranceInter on Wednesday (May 3). He admitted this is “insufficient, even if we are improving year-on-year”.

The comments came as part of a presentation of conclusions from the Conseil national de la refondation sur la santé, which saw more than 250 meetings take place, in which 10,000 people took part. The aim was to “simplify our citizens’ lives” with more than 100 projects that are “being finalised”, he said.

Mr Braun added he was working to “change the way that doctors work” by ending all of the “useless bureaucratic tasks”, such as “medical certificates that don’t prove anything”.

He said: “I’m not asking doctors to work more, but to work differently.” He added that he would send a letter to “all ministers concerned, to all local and regional authorities” to remind them of this advice and to reassure them the “law will not change”.

Read also: How can I find out which parts of France are lacking doctors? 

‘Totally absurd’ certificates

The minister said that the current system requires people to “ask [for certificates] for anything and everything”, even when there is no need (such as to prove that a young boy in good health can run before he is permitted to play school football).

Mr Braun specified another example, saying: “When your child is ill, you have to ask for a medical certificate so you don’t have to pay those days of creche. But then far too many creches also ask for a medical certificate to prove that the child is no longer ill, so they can come back to creche. 

“It’s totally absurd. These certificates should no longer be done; doctors will refuse.”

The minister added that he was working with Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra to “stop these [sporting] medical certificates completely”. He said that while it might be “logical” to get a medical certificate for people “who compete”, he criticised other requests.

“When you’re doing sport for leisure, and you’re 15 years old and have no health problems…I think we need to be reasonable,” he said. From September, non-competition certificates will no longer be required, he said.

Medical deserts

It comes after the government said that addressing the problem of medical deserts was a major priority.

Mr Braun said: “The government can and will act. There is a part of the population that is complaining, which is suffering when it comes to health and care.”

Read more: Eight facts to understand France’s issue of ‘medical deserts’ 

On other issues, the minister said: 

  • He was against charging people who do not honour their medical appointments
  • He would not impose a mandatory geographical posting on doctors
  • He was in favour of banning disposable e-cigarettes because they “bring part of our young population towards smoking…which is a plague that causes 75,000 deaths per year”, he said.

The minister added he would “hunt down establishments that do not follow the rules” when it comes to intern doctors after 30,000 of them protested last week against what they said were poor apprenticeship or internship conditions.

Mr Braun said: “Some doctors rely too much on these interns, who are training doctors, who you can give reasonable responsibilities appropriate to their training level. But you can’t learn your job [properly] by working 80 to 100 hours a week.”

Read also: Send independent doctors to parts of France with shortage, says report

Hospital shortages

Mr Braun also addressed comments by President Emmanuel Macron that he was aiming to improve shortages in hospitals by the end of next year.

He said he was “absolutely certain” that this objective would be reached but that he would “aim to work on emergency departments” as early as possible and widen “access to care” across the entire country “before the end of the year”.

Read also: Anger after man, 91, dies after waiting three days at French hospital

He said: “We will launch a major recruitment campaign for medical regulation assistants from this month.”

Hospital shortages have been intensifying in recent years, with healthcare workers going on repeated strikes against “disastrous” shortages, “dangerous conditions”, and a “desperate” system.

Read also

French hospital workers strike over ‘disastrous’ staff shortages

France announces ‘first measures’ to tackle hospital staff shortages 

One in five French A&E units face cuts or closure due to lack of staff

‘Dangerous conditions’ in 127 hospitals and emergency units in France

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