Many independent GPs are on strike this week, in a movement that is set to last until Monday (January 2).
These doctors are being encouraged to close their surgeries by a collective called ‘Médecins pour demain’, which was created to demand that the standard GP consultation fee be increased from €25 to €50. The collective now has around 15,000 members.
The group is also calling for improvements to their working conditions, and for incentives aimed at making the profession more attractive, especially to young people.
“This is the final alarm signal from independent GPs ahead of the collapse of the entire healthcare system,” Médecins pour demain spokesperson Noëlle Cariclet told Franceinfo.
Dr Cariclet, who is a psychiatrist based in Ile-de-France, condemned the fact that doctors are “made to close their surgeries to be heard”.
The scale of this strike is not yet known because it falls at a time when many GPs would be on holiday anyway.
GPs carried out a first strike on December 1-2 – with 30% of such doctors involved, according to Assurance maladie – and are now repeating the action with the support of the UFML, FMF, SML and Jeunes Médecins unions.
However, the unions MG France, CSMF and Avenir Spé have stated that the negotiations launched in the autumn have resulted in “progress”, and so have not called on GPs to close their surgeries this time.
Doctors are currently in talks with the government and Assurance maladie, to reach an agreement for the next five years.
The UFML union has said that “investment must meet demand”, and should total around “€6-€10billion per year”.
The GP strike has increased pressure on hospital services, with A&E doctor Patrick Pelloux saying: “We are not on the verge of being overwhelmed, we are completely overwhelmed.”
Amélie Verdier, the director-general of Ile-de-France’s Agence régionale de santé has spoken of a “critical situation” and has issued “a solemn appeal” to striking doctors, asking them to return to work.
Health Minister François Braun has “completely” condemned the strike, and has called on GPs to recognise their “responsibilities” when emergency services are in a “critical situation”.
Hospitals are currently facing a ‘triple epidemic’ of flu, Covid and bronchiolitis, and the fact that GPs are on strike means that people who would normally go to their local doctor’s surgery are calling Samu.
In Bouches-du-Rhône, people have been waiting 45 minutes before being able to speak to an emergency services operator.
Médecins pour demain are planning a day of demonstrations in Paris on January 5.
What do I do if I fall ill?
If you fall ill and your GP is participating in the strike, the first thing to ask yourself is whether your complaint can wait until your doctor comes back. If it can, it is best to simply book an appointment for after the strike ends.
If it cannot wait and it is outside normal GP operating hours, you can also contact your local permanence de soins (out-of-hours service).
To find out the number of the permanence de soins in your area, you can call 15. The service can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In an emergency, you can also call 15 to ask what you should do. If the operator judges it necessary, an ambulance can be sent to your location.
You will need to provide a phone number, the address the emergency services should go to and the reasons for your call. You will be given advice on what to do before the ambulance arrives.
If you can, you can also go independently aux urgences (to A&E) in the case of an emergency.
You might go to A&E if you are experiencing acute pain, breathing difficulties, have had a fall or similar. Services are currently very busy across France, so if your complaint is not an emergency it is better to go to an out-of-hours clinic.
GP numbers drop
For the last 10 years, the number of independent GPs working only in surgeries has fallen by 11%, or from 64,142 in 2012, to 57,033 in 2022.
The number of GPs practising both in a surgery and in a hospital has nearly doubled from 4,780 to 8,437.
A recent study from the Association nationale des étudiants en médecine de France (Anemf) has suggested that the profession has become less attractive to students training to be doctors.
More than one in two (50.4%) said they were questioning their choice, and 7.7% said they were abandoning the profession.
A new requirement that trainee doctors carry out a fourth year of residency in a ‘medical desert’ (an area suffering from a lack of doctors) has added to the disaffection felt by students.
The French population is continuing to grow and age, but the number of GPs per 100,000 people has fallen from 101.7 in 2012 to 84.34 this year.