I am an avid reader of people’s problems on the Facebook site ‘Strictly Legal France’. Recently someone made an apt observation. Her father was getting older and every time he had a health problem his doctor sent him to hospital, where the excellent French health service would find yet another illness that he was suffering from. The lady commented in passing that the French health service was ‘too good’. Her father returned home after each stay in hospital with yet more pills to take and lists of specialists with whom he needed to make appointments.

Can this possibly be correct, that a health service can be too good?

I recently had a colonoscopy examination. I had to visit the anaesthetist and fill out a series of forms a few weeks before the operation. I had a booklet of instructions to follow for the week before the hospital visit, a blood test to book at the local labs to check my creatine levels and a Covid test to take as well. There was also the online pre-admission survey which would not accept information and required the help of my husband to load as apparently it didn’t like our Safari server. The things I had to do seemed to be taking over my life and the stress of not being able to send off the last survey became close to overwhelming.

If all that needed to be done for a colonoscopy, what would be the burden of having several illnesses to cope with? We have an elderly friend and it seems that her life rotates around continual medical appointments. The pile of paperwork becomes daunting, blood tests require an appointment to be booked at your local lab, then later in the day you must log in to their site and look at the results – for the older generation with limited IT skills all this is a daunting task. Booking an appointment these days is supposed to be easier on the internet. Doctors offices don’t answer their phones, but have voicemail messages to ask you to book via Doctor Lib. When you go onto the site, you find that many specialists are not taking new patients, so booking an appointment is difficult. Every time I phoned a Dermatologist’s office, I got recorded messages that they didn’t work between certain times and on certain days. After many failed attempts I decided to visit the surgery and make the appointment in person, an impossibility if you don’t live in the town.

In France we pay 25 euros each time we visit our GP. People expect something in return for their money. If you don’t come away with a prescription with 3 items on it, then you are not getting value for your money. A blocked-up nose might result in a prescription for antihistamines to rule out hay fever. Each visit results in the number of daily medicines being taken increasing. Anti-biotics are expected by the patients. I read recently that the over 40’s who take antibiotics are at risk of intestinal troubles in later life.When I visit my local chemist, I am horrified by the large bags of drugs being handed over to older customers.

         Yes, the French health service is good, but be remember that each medicine has secondary effects and can lead to another  problem. A good friend of ours is now so medicated that she has a nurse that visits three times a day to ensure she takes her abundant supply of pills as prescribed.

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