A prescient new report has highlighted the growing shortage of GPs in a many areas of France and the regional disparities that exist.
According to the report*, while demand for access to a general practitioner in France is growing, between 2015 and 2018 the number GPs fell by 3.3%.
In 2015 each inhabitant had access to an average of 4.06 GP consultations per year, but by 2018 this had fallen to 3.93.
A fall in the number of GPs is being accompanied by an increase in population and an ageing population needing more medical support.
The authors state that nearly 6% of the population in France now live in an area that has low level of access to GPs, a figure which is expected to rise to 12% over the next few years.
According to the Conseil National Ordre de Medicins since 2010 the total number of GPs has fallen by 7%, from 94,261 to 87,801, and is projected to decrease to 81,804 by 2025.
Last year, an alarming survey carried out by the consumer group Que Choisir, 44% of GPs questioned stated that they were unwilling to take on new patients.
In addition, a further 9% stated that they would wish to see the patient before making a decision.
The report shows that in some areas, there are only 2.5 consultations per person/year, with the number of people in this group rising from 2.5 million in 2015 to 3.8 million in 2018.
This gap between those with the highest levels of access to consultations and those with the lowest has also been growing.
Unsurprisingly, the areas with the lowest numbers of GPs are those with the least amount of facilities, such as schools and shops.
These areas tend to be the least densely populated areas, with more geographically isolated communities.
In contrast, more densely populated areas with access to a greater number of facilities attract not only higher numbers of GPs, but also specialists.
The graphic below shows the number of consultations per person per year in the various areas of mainland France.
In those areas coloured orange inhabitants had access to more than 4 GP consultations per year; in those coloured yellow, between 2.5 and 4 consultations, and in those coloured blue, less than 2.5 consultations per year.
The fall in coverage has been happening right across the country but the biggest falls have been in Centre Val-de-Loire (-5.9), Normany (-5.4%) and Occitanie (-4.3%).
*Études et Résultats, n°1144, Drees