French GP strike enters second week, no solution in sight

We look at what you can do if you fall ill and your doctor is on strike

Independent GPs in France have been called to strike again this week
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Independent GPs in France are being called to extend their strike action for another week until Sunday (January 8), as the collective representing them criticises the lack of dialogue with the government.

The Médecins pour demain group, which has about 15,000 members, originally called for GPs to strike from December 26 until January 2 but has now stated: “the government has not deigned to pay attention to us” and so has extended the action.

There will also be a demonstration held in Paris on Thursday (January 5) at 13:00, leaving from the Panthéon and heading to the health ministry.

French GPs are asking for their standard consultation fee to be doubled from €25 to €50 and for improvements to their working conditions.

For patients within the French healthcare system, 70% of the consultation fee is normally reimbursed, with the remainder often covered by a mutuelle (top-up insurance).

The strike beginning on December 26 was supported by several unions, including the UFML, FMF, SML and Jeunes médecins.

However, it has been condemned by Health Minister François Braun, who has criticised the timing of the movement during a “period of extreme difficulty within the health system” as it faces a triple epidemic of flu, Covid and bronchiolitis.

Médecins pour demain has said that it has been “unfairly lectured to” by the health minister, adding: “It is with much regret and bitterness that we are officially calling for a second strike week.”

GPs also took strike action on December 1 and 2, when activity fell by around 30% according to the state health body Assurance maladie.

Assurance maladie has also stated that last week’s strike led to a 5-10% fall in activity, while Médecins pour demain claimed that it was nearer 70%.

Read also: Am I assigned a doctor in France or do I need to register?

What to do if you fall ill

If you fall ill and your GP is on strike, there are several things you can do to avoid going to A&E services, which are under significant pressure at the moment.

Firstly, if you need a repeat prescription and would normally go to your GP, you can instead go to a pharmacist while the strike action is taking place.

If you need a consultation, it is possible that your local surgery will still be open, even if some of the staff are striking.

You could also search for appointments at a different surgery using a platform such as Doctolib, where you will often be able to find a video call option.

You would normally have to pay more if you did not go to your usual doctor but during the strike this rule has been temporarily removed.

“The doctor who takes over from their striking colleague will tick a box labelled ‘emergency’ on the feuille de soin,” so that no extra fee is added, the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie told the French media

If you are very ill and need a doctor urgently, you can call 15 to be put through to the Samu. The operator will be able to advise you as to the best course of action.

You may, for example, be told to go to an out-of-hours clinic, or to contact SOS Médecins, which is not involved in the strike.

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