Which French cities/areas have the best healthcare?

Areas with larger populations generally have better care and a wider variety of services

Some online tools can help you find healthcare metrics for your local area
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Reader question: We are planning to move to France but we are concerned about how good healthcare is. We assume Paris is the place with the best healthcare, but are there any other good areas?

Access to healthcare is indeed a geographical issue in France, with many areas suffering from ‘medical deserts’ where there is a lack of good healthcare.

You are right that Parisians and those in the surrounding Île-de-France region have access to a high quality of healthcare, largely because of the centralised nature of France.

Alongside a higher number of doctors per capita in the area (and the accessibility of services), a number of leading national and international health facilities are located there.

However, outside of Paris services can depend on your specific healthcare needs: for example do you need access to a particular type of specialist, or just to a GP (médecin traitant)?

Which French cities offer the best healthcare?

Note, of course, that the ‘best’ healthcare is subjective as people’s experiences and opinions may vary.

However, some efforts have been made to measure the ‘best’ hospitals in the country.

The 2022 rankings from American journal ‘Newsweek’ ranked the best hospitals in the world.

The first ten French hospitals to appear on the list are below, in order of their appearance, with the location of the hospital in bold:

1: Hôpital universitaire de la salpêtrière à Paris (ranked seventh best in the world)

2: Hôpital européen Georges Pompidou, Paris (ranked 18th best in the world)

3: CHU de Lille – Hôpital Claude Huriez (ranked 47th best in the world)

4: CHU de Bordeaux – Groupe hospitalier Pellegrin (ranked 73rd best in the world)

5: Hôpital Paris Saint Joseph (ranked 90th best in the world)

6: Hôpital Lyon Sud – Hospices civils de Lyons

7: Polyclinique Santé Atlantique, Nantes

8: Hôpital de la Timone à Marseille

9: CHU de Toulouse – Hôpital Purpan

10: CHU Louis Pradel, Lyon

The hospitals were ranked on peer reviews, patient reports, and medical performance indicators.

Using these figures Paris, followed by Lyon, ranks as the best in France, with most other major cities having one or more high quality major hospitals.

However, these are general rankings, and do not break results down into specific categories. They also only cover ‘hospitals’ as opposed to all healthcare facilities.

A different ranking from auditing firm PwC lists Bordeaux as the city with the best healthcare in France, followed by Aix, Rouen, Strasbourg and Rennes.

In their rankings – based on different criteria including the number of healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities per person – smaller cities generally were ranked higher than those with a large population.

Lyon and Paris did not rank in the top 10; Toulouse, the largest town in the top ten, was placed tenth.

French media outlet Le Point used to publish an annual list of all major healthcare facilities in France, which could be analysed by the type of healthcare needed, and whether the facility was public, private, or mixed.

The annual updates were cancelled in 2022, due to the alleged difficulty in sourcing information amidst data privacy and a lack of access to the key data required.

The last list published (in 2021) contains fairly recent information and can be found here, however it is only available to Le Point subscribers.

Read more: France plans 100 medical buses to improve rural access to healthcare

Is healthcare better in cities?

Generally, healthcare is considered better in cities than in rural areas in France, largely due to the difficulty in accessing healthcare outside of many cities.

This is the case both for the amount of facilities to which rural residents have access - even those living in the suburbs of major cities are likely to have access to all healthcare facilities via public transport - and the distance needed to travel to reach it.

Many rural residents – even in larger but isolated towns – struggle with accessing healthcare.

Consumer watchdogs UFC-Que Choisir has an interactive tool that measures the cost and ease of accessing healthcare across France.

You can enter a postcode and then choose from a number of healthcare options (access to GPs, opticians, paediatricians, gynaecologists etc) as well as whether to look at healthcare only accessible via Social Security, or all healthcare options.

Both the commune you review as well as those surrounding it are highlighted in the results.

The website shows that access to healthcare in cities is much better generally than in rural areas.

Many areas are listed as ‘medical deserts’ because of the lack of acceptable facilities.

One thing you may wish to do before making your move is to speak to the estate agent / notaire if purchasing a property, and ask the vendor / residents about local healthcare facilities.

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