How to get started as a general practitioner in France

25 March 2020 | Medical career

General practitioners (GP), sometimes called family doctors, have a special place in the hearts of the French. They play an essential role in the lives of their local patients. Acting as both medical practitioners and confidants, they guide and follow-up on the sick as they seek and receive care.  Setting up your GP practice requires a number of administrative procedures, of which we provide some details below.

Have you have decided to set up a private practice as a GP in France?

The first step is to select the geographical location where you will practice. It is generally recommended to initially work as a substitute doctor to gain an understanding of the location and local patient base. Next, you will need to find premises to purchase or rent, bearing in mind that this step could take quite some time to finalise. It’s also important to understand the competitive landscape, for example, if a peer has a practice in a particular building, you won’t be able to set up your practice there without their consent, as well as legislative requirements, such as being forbidden from transforming rooms in a private residence into a place of business without prior agreement of the town hall. There may also be the option of taking over the practice of a doctor who is moving or retiring by purchasing their clientèle, typically valued at 30% to 50% of annual revenue, or joining them as an associate.

Administrative procedures

The legal status you select will determine the social security fees and taxes you pay; bear in mind that certain geographical zones offer tax exceptions for medical practices. You will need to choose whether you are a “secteur 1” or “secteur 2” doctor (“secteur 3” is very rarely used). This choice is irrevocable in that you can later switch from sector 1 to sector 2, but not the other way around. You will also need to join various medical and insurance associations before you can begin your practice, such as the Ordre des Médecins (medical doctors association), the Agence régionale de santé (ARS) (regional health care agency), and the Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie et au Centre de formalités des entreprises (Urssaf) (health insurance agency), among others. You will also need to subscribe to a pension fund (caisse de retraite), and take out a business liability insurance policy (assurance de responsabilité professionnelle).

Lastly, it is vital that you draw up a budget with specific financial forecasts. If necessary, avail yourself of the help of financial institutions, as financing may be available for setting up a GP practice.

Prefer to practice medicine as a salaried employee?

You would then be employed at a business organisation (a health care centre, for example), receive a monthly salary, work fixed hours, and receive administrative support. This also means accepting the organisation’s way of operating and its hierarchy.

Our consultants are at your disposal to assist you in your decision-making process, provide you with additional information you need, and direct you to the proper institutions and organisations. In particular, they are there to help you find the employment that best suits you, and to provide feedback and advice on your career plans.

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