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Major upheaval in healthcare

People are no longer allowed to go direct to a specialist

January 1 2005 was the start of a major upheaval in the way residents in France procure their healthcare.

Since that date anyone who is on the national health system (Casse primaire d’Assurance maladie) here is required by law to sign up with a general practitioner to whom they must go for advice before visiting a specialist. If they fail to do so, they will not be fully reimbursed by the state. Up to now patients have been able to go directly to a specialist if they thought they knew what was wrong with them. The government estimates it will save over a billion euro in one year.

The GP (médecin traitant, equivalent to family doctor) now keeps hold of the patient’s records which represents a big move away from the medical nomadism of the previous system. If the GP is on holiday, the patient will be seen by a colleague who will have access to the records.

People will be able to visit a gynaecologist, psychiatrist, opthalmologist or dentist without prior consultation with the médecin traitant, and if they want to seek a second or third opinion from a GP they are free to do so but it will cost them more. They will also be free to change the GP, provided they let their local CPAM office know.

For some nationalities, the British and German for example, these conditions are nothing new. In the UK and Germany people on the national health system have always had to visit a GP for initial diagnosis and treatment.