General practitioner: the advantages of working in a private practice in rural areas of France

22 April 2020 | Medical career

All across Europe there has been a significant decline in the number of general practitioners. France has also been heavily affected in this regard, and is experiencing a shortage of GPs in some regions. There exists in France a general principle whereby doctors are free to set up their practice where they please. However, to address the shortage of doctors in rural areas, a number of policies have been put in place to incentivize doctors to set up a private practices in these affected areas. It is important to encourage young general practitioners to come to these areas and establish their career there on favorable terms. The national health insurance fund will provide assistance in priority areas, that is, those most affected by this shortage. The State and the local authorities will also enact measures in additional target areas. These measures are designed to increase the number of practicing physicians in areas where there is a significant shortage.

Conventional assistance

The conventional assistance programs are funded by the national health insurance fund. They were established in 2016 in order to combat “medical desertification”. There are presently four assistance programs in place: medical practice setup assistance contract, the physician coordination and stabilization contract, the transition contract, and the medical practice territory solidarity contract. These provide capped lump sums which are subject to certain conditions. These assistance funds are disbursed in two installments: the first installment when setting up your practice, and the second one year later. They are designed to help you to cover costs such as purchasing equipment, etc.

State assistance

These assistance programs are available for a larger geographical area. This assistance is not in the form of funding, as with the health insurance fund assistance programs, but a type of targeted compensation in order to provide doctors with a degree of financial security when setting up their practice, on maternity leave, etc. This State assistance is naturally for a limited period of time only, and, as with the conventional assistance, is subject to certain terms and conditions.

Local authorities may also participate by offering scholarships or financial aid in return for setting up a medical practice. Town halls may also offer aid, though to a lesser extent. The latter is often in the form of free space for a doctor’s office, help with finding housing, etc. Tax and social contribution exemptions may also be available in certain rural areas designated for revitalization. This assistance, initially created for entrepreneurs, can also benefit young doctors looking to set up a private practice in the community.

All that said, there are certain advantages to setting up a medical practice and working as a private (“libéral”) general practitioner in rural areas of France.

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