What is changing for transport to and from hospitals in France?

Associations say patients will be put in difficult and vulnerable situations

A journey of 30km will be allowed for patients in shared transportation from newt year. Taxis often bring patients to and from appointments

Patients taking medical transport to hospitals are set to see a number of changes from 2025 onwards under a new decree set to be made public in the coming days.

Key changes include an increase to the distance patients can travel to an appointment and new rules on multiple patients sharing medical transport vehicles.

Already in 2024, patients who refuse to share medical transport must pay the costs of their travel in advance, but in 2025 will need to pay a penalty on top of this.

In addition, there is no longer the requirement for patients or drivers to wear masks, or for any other protective measures to be put in place inside the vehicle.

“Without barrier measures… there is obviously a risk of contamination for the most vulnerable people, who may have to pay an increased price or lose out on health benefits,” said Catherine Simonin of France Assos Santé organisation.

Certain patients are still able to get individual medical transport, but this is dependent on a written note from the doctor you have your appointment with saying it is necessary.

The changes are being made in order to reduce the social security budget, with medical transportation costs reaching €5.7 billion in 2022.

Read more: €30 doctor fees, less drugs: how healthcare could change in France

Travel up to 30km away for some patients

With multiple patients now sharing the transportation – that is often provided by local taxi drivers – travel further afield from a patient’s home will now be allowed

The decree allows for diversions of up to 10km per patient in the vehicle between the medical facility and their home, up to a maximum of 30km away.

This proposal has not gone down well with a number of charities, who claim it may cause pain to patients, particularly those travelling home from a hospital.

“The patient may experience nausea, vomiting [after a chemotherapy or dialysis session]... And this person is going to have a diversion of up to 30 km imposed on them, even though they are in a vulnerable situation,” said Bruno Lamothe, from the Renaloo kidney association to France Info

In addition, the use of a measurement of distance – as opposed to time – has also come under scrutiny, with roads in rural areas often becoming much busier in summer.

“A person living in Grau-du-Roi (Gard) region, 30 km from Montpellier, will take 44 minutes to reach the hospital in winter, but 3 hours and 45 minutes in summer, because of traffic jams [caused by tourists],” Mr Lamothe added.

Patients will also be required to wait ‘a reasonable amount of time’ for other patients sharing the vehicles to finish their appointment, although there is not yet an indication of how long this will be. 

Read more: Long-term health patients fear reimbursement reforms in France

Refusing to share comes with costs 

If a person does not have a note from their doctor saying they cannot share medical transport with others, but still refuses to do so, they can still get individual transport, but will have to pay the yearly cost of this in advance.

“For a dialysis patient, for example, the average cost is €13,000 per year, rising to €20,000. These people will not be able to pay in advance,” Mr Lamothe said. 

From 2025 onwards, in addition to paying fees in advance, patients who refuse to share transport will also face a financial penalty. The amount of this penalty has not yet been made public.

Medical transportation is made available for patients who require frequent care at a medical facility, but do not have access to someone who can take them to the appointments.