Knowing where to access medical care at all times is important to help you feel settled in a country.
In France, there are lots of alternative routes if your GP is unavailable when you need them.
During ‘normal’ hours – from around 8:00 to 20:00 – your own doctor should either be available or indicate, for example on their voicemail, how to contact a colleague if they are not available.
At night and at the weekend there are other alternatives in place to ensure you find medical care as and when required.
Options available include calling a national helpline, the well-known SOS Médecins service, or Qare, which offers online consultations.
Call a national helpline
One solution if your doctor is unavailable is to call a national helpline on 116 117.
This number puts you in touch with volunteer GPs who can help you find a doctor available in your area whether, for example, a home-visit, or at a maison médicale de garde (see below).
Maison médicale de garde
The maisons médicales de garde (on-call medical centres) provide care at weekends, nights and public holidays when surgeries and doctors’ practices are closed.
In Paris, for example, there are five on-call centres where you can consult a doctor without an appointment.
However these centres exist in almost all regions in France.
In Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), for example, the maison médicale de garde is open between 20:00 and 00:00 Monday to Friday, 12:00 to 00:00 on Saturday, and 08:00 to 00:00 Sundays and public holidays.
You can go directly to these centres for any urgent problem requiring diagnosis and treatment.
The cost of the consultation is more expensive than normal-hour appointments, and it increases the later it is in the night.
For example, weekdays between 20:00 and 00:00 it can cost around €40 a consultation or €46 for a home visit.
For a consultation between midnight and 06:00 it can cost around €50 for an in-person appointment, rising to closer to €60 for an at-home visit.
For weekends and bank holidays, rates are usually around €25 for an in-person appointment or €30 for a home visit.
In terms of reimbursement, it remains the same as a normal consultation, at 70% as paid by the state, with a mutuelle - a top-up health insurance policy to refund the part of costs not repaid by the state system - required to cover the rest.
You can find telephone numbers for the on-call medical centres by Googling maison médicale de garde followed by your town, city, or department name.
Another option is to check the website of your regional Agence régionale de santé (ARS) as the region may have a specific contact number for out-of-hour consultations. You can also try the website maisonsmedicale.com, which helps patients find their nearest centre.
You can phone this platform too on 08 93 02 00 26. This service costs €0.80 per minute plus the cost of the call.
As mentioned above the 116 117 helpline should also be able to assist.
This service is another alternative. You can book an appointment online but may need to create an account first.
Alternatively call 3624. This costs €0.15 per minute plus the price of the call, and is available at all times. SOS médecins can organise in-person appointments for you, or, if that is not required, set up an online or telephone consultation with a doctor.
You can find your nearest branch here. The price of the consultations depends on the service you require and the time.
A home visit between 20:00 and 00:00 is €71, for example, while an appointment at a doctor’s practice is €67.50.
Between 00:00 and 06:00, a home visit costs €84.50, while an appointment at a doctor’s practice is €76.50.
The doctors are able to accept cartes Vitale - a health card that carries your social security data - meaning patients can get the usual 70% reimbursement plus more if they have a mutuelle.
Qare is a private company that offers online video consultations to patients, until 23:00 each day.
Using this service it is even possible to get a medical prescription, if necessary.
Prices for a consultation with a GP range from around €25 to €100.
It is also possible to use your carte Vitale in order to get reimbursed for the cost.
Phone the SAMU if urgent
Another option is to phone 15 for free, for France’s emergency medical service (Samu).
Operators will be able to direct you to a nearby on-call centre if necessary depending on the issue you are facing.
However, this is not to be used for non-serious issues.