French mayors’ ideas to solve rural doctor shortages 'taken seriously'

Rural mayors have presented the health minister with four solutions to healthcare ‘deserts’ using consultation results

Association des Maires Ruraux de France (AMRF) says doctors should get more support to relocate to rural areas in France

The Health Minister, François Braun, is said to have taken seriously four proposals put forward by the Association des Maires Ruraux de France.

The association, which represents mayors of communes of less than 3,500 residents, agreed on the ideas after consultation with citizens and healthcare professionals when they met recently.

It comes as the mayors have raised the alarm over what they see as unequal access to healthcare in France for those who live in rural areas as opposed to cities and towns.

Read more: Lack of doctors in France ‘means rural residents are dying younger’

The proposals are:

1. Medical students to be offered placements in rural areas as well as in the city where they are study. Those taking them up should be assisted with offers of low-cost accommodation and transport help.

2. Where people do not have a GP, the rules should allow for more flexibility for problems to be dealt with and co-ordinated by other professionals.

Gilles Noël, a health issues specialist for the association, said: “Imagine I injure my foot: I might need to see my GP, who refers me to a nurse or physio, prescribes medicines, etc. But if I have no GP I don’t get care. In this case, we need to give permission for another professional to take charge so the wound doesn’t get infected and I end up in A&E instead."

Read more: 9% of population live more than 30 minutes from A&E in France

3. A ‘one-stop shop’ to be created for each department, online or in person, so when a new health professional moves to the area, they can get answers to questions and help with accommodation, children’s schooling, or help for their partner to find work.

“They mustn’t feel like it’s a punishment to come to our areas," said Mr Noël.

4. Find new ways to ensure essential care acts can be carried out locally – a new sharing of tasks along the lines of how pharmacists and physios vaccinated during the pandemic.

For example, allowing nurses to be consulted directly for wound care, or a physio for an ankle sprain, without the need for a doctor’s prescription being required.

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