French healthcare the best? One expat says yes.

French healthcare the best? One expat says yes.

An important factor on the minds of most retirees when seeking a place to move to overseas is the healthcare provision available and the convenience of this.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its last World Health report 2000 ranked France as the first in the world for healthcare, followed by Italy.

Is this report fair and also how to take advantage of the French healthcare system if you are moving there?

Jeanne Boden, who has lived for 18 years in The Tarn in South West France with her family, is keen to share her good experience of the local healthcare system, and offers some advice.

"My experience with our family of four has always been exceptional in the Tarn," says the Team Manager and Director of La Durantie, a chateau based country club that targets active retirees.

"We are fortunate in Castelnau de Montmiral to have three wonderful GP's, four community nurses, a physiotherapist and a pharmacy who really know all their patients in the old fashioned way - it is a community of 1,000 people but with access to Albi and Toulouse for specialists and consultants.

"If you are a UK pensioner or currently paying NI contributions it is important to realise that you are entitled to reciprocal French healthcare which is excellent.

Insider tips

"Take the precaution to obtain your S1 certificate from HMRC as soon as you know your French address and from when you will be living there full time. This can take 2-3 months to obtain so plan ahead!

"Once you have this form send or take it to your local Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie or CPAM in France. They will then process you a 'carte vitale' which is a green 'credit card' with your photo and French social security number.

"Keep this card with you at all times as it is swiped for any medical care you receive anywhere in France. This covers 60-70 per cent of any bill and prescription (a visit to your GP is currently €23).

"It is up to you if you then wish to choose a top-up insurance, or 'Mutual' to cover the shortfall. For this, shop around a bit with insurance companies to get the right type of cover for yourself. For example if you are likely to need a lot of eye or dental treatment, make sure this is listed in the cover.

Speedy scans and test results

"The French take great care of themselves and do not hesitate to visit the surgery or even emergency services if it is out of hours! In France when you go for an X-ray, scan or blood tests, you are responsible for your documents and carry them to your various consultants, which means the consultants have instant access to your files because it is you bringing them in.

"In rural areas and medium size towns generally you're dealt with very quickly - test results are received within 24 hours and X-rays and scans handed out half an hour after they are done.

"Nurses do house visits for routine dressings and injections on their rounds, but you are responsible for buying all the vaccines or bandages, so when the nurse visits a person they have the equipment and prescriptions already ordered."

La Durantie with its historical belle époque style chateau and 15 hectare estate, has been designed to suit a 'new breed' of retirees, more of which are finding themselves single in their latter years.

"With the downsizing trend looking set to continue, there is a gap in the market for active retirees who are not ready for a retirement home but would enjoy a level of social interaction in a like-minded and cultured community," says Tony Dowse of Developer Environ Communities and the planner of La Durantie.

"So rather than just renovating the chateau and chopping it up into flats we have turned it into a country club at the social heart of the development for all to appreciate and enjoy."

Three-bed homes at La Durantie (pictured above) cost €491,920 (£404,100).

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