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France to fine patients for missing medical appointments

Those without a good excuse will face a €5 penalty, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has said

The French government is proposing to fine patients if they fail to attend doctor appointments without a good excuse, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has announced.

The policy is reportedly aimed at supporting the health service as it struggles to cope with the rising demands of an aging population amid staff shortages and increasing costs.

Attal said on Monday that an estimated 27 million patients fail to show up for medical appointments each year.

“We cannot allow this to continue,” the prime minister said, noting that the new measure could free up between 15 million and 20 million appointments a year for other patients.

The proposed step would be part of a law that, if approved by parliament, could come into effect from January 2025.

Attal’s announcement of the proposed €5 penalty for failing to attend scheduled appointments was met with immediate outcry from doctors’ unions and patients’ groups.

“It won’t work. It’s just a tax… and the end result will be that the health system will lose,” Patrick Pelloux, president of the Emergency Doctors’ Association, told The Guardian.

GP Luc Duquesnel reportedly told France Bleu radio that it would be better to “educate people rather than tell professionals they have to tax them, which will strain relations with our patients.”

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According to Gerard Raymond, the president of the French Patients’ Association, who opposes the measure, the penalty is aimed at making patients feel guilty rather than responsible.

Under the plan, patients would be obliged to give debit or credit card details when arranging an appointment. If they fail to turn up without giving at least 24 hours’ notice, doctors could fine them. Patients with a valid reason for missing their appointment would be exempt.

It would be up to the doctor to decide whether the reason for missing the appointment was sufficiently reasonable to avoid the fine.

A shortage of doctors has long been the biggest problem facing France’s national healthcare system, along with access to treatment and long waiting times.

Attal said he would also seek to increase the number of students finishing high-pressure medical training in a bid to address a critical shortage of medical staff. The number of students entering the second year of medical degrees would rise from 10,000 a year in 2023 to 12,000 in 2025, and 16,000 in 2027, according to the prime minister.


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