France has the best health service in the world according to the World Health Organisation. It certainly saved the life of my husband when he had chest pains one June day. A few days later he visited the doctor and was told to go for a blood test. The next day he had the test and went off to work. At midday the doctor got the results and phoned me at home to say that I must contact my husband and we must go to Accident and Emergency right away. It took me a long 30 minutes to track him down, but by then the doctor had called at the house to see us! My husband was admitted on that Friday. Later, he had one stent fitted but the damage was too severe to fit 3 more. He went back in August and had a triple bypass, was in intensive care for 2 weeks, very seriously ill. A hole had developed in his heart and his blood was not being oxygenated. Eventually a patch was fitted, the biggest that was manufactured, and he left hospital in the last week of November. Then, he had 10 sessions of exercises with a physio to get his heart muscles up to strength. All his medicines are paid for, he has regular six monthly blood tests and yearly check-ups. His medical folder weighs 1.3 kilos! The down side is that doctors are considered as gods who can’t be challenged. My husband was losing weight (12 kilos in the end) because he hadn’t enough strength to eat. One of his medicines was a huge potassium pill that, as soon as he swallowed it, made him sick. I asked English friends if there were any alternatives to this and they said it could be injected. I asked the nurses if his treatment could be changed. My neighbours were horrified. ‘What do you know about medicine?’ they asked me. ‘Who are you to question a doctor?’
Two professors from the prestigious Necker Institute, wrote a study saying that if superfluous drugs were not prescribed, the French health service would save up to €10bn (£8bn) a year. It would also prevent up to 20,000 deaths linked to over medication and would reduce hospital admissions by up to 100,000, they claimed. Annually, the French consume medication worth about £430 for each citizen. In Britain spending on medicines is around £271 per person. Our daughter’s stye in the eye resulted in a 3 item prescription, whereas our doctor in the UK told me how to boil salt water, and wipe the inflammation with a clean cotton wool ball. You only have to spend a few minutes in a French pharmacy to see the carrier bags of medications being given out to patients, to know that the two doctors, who wrote the book about over prescription, are right. However, hearing aids are not free in France. They cost 1,000€ a piece and it has been estimated that 6,000,000 people cannot hear well and need ‘un appareil auditif’.