French doctors are learning how to care for British patients. Due to cultural differences they find British patients much different than French patients.

For example, the British, thanks to their famous Stiff Upper Lip and stoicism, are less likely to go and see the doctor than the French are. A recent study, for example, found that 75 per cent (three quarters) of the French see their doctor for flu-like symptoms compared with just 25 per cent (one quarter) of the British.

The other is that the British are more shy and prudent than other nationalities. French doctors are learning to be more careful when it comes to asking an Englishwoman to take off her clothes than asking a Frenchwoman.

The Times

December 28, 2006

Rule No 1 for treating les anglais - let ladies keep their clothes on
Adam Sage in Paris

* GPs learn to care for British patients
* Problems cultural as well as linguistic

A good-natured and well-liked GP in rural France, Patrick Léopold thought that the local population had no secrets for him. Then a new type of patient arrived — the British. “They are very agreeable,” he said. “But communication is not always straightforward.”

Dr Léopold, 54, is among a growing number of French GPs undertaking a training programme on how to treat the several hundred thousand Britons who have moved to France.

The difficulties they face are as much cultural as linguistic.

The programme, funded by the French Federal Association for Medical Training, aims to bridge the linguistic and social gulf that often separates Gallic doctors from their English patients. Participants are given a list of English medical terms and mistakes to avoid, such as confusing the French groin (pig’s snout) with a groin strain, or pile (battery) with piles.

They are also warned about what Marc Bonnel, who runs the programme, describes as “cultural diversity”. “Basically, we have a totally different approach to medicine,” he said.

Consultations, for instance, tend to be longer in France — an average of fifteen minutes compared with seven in Britain. “We take the time to talk to patients and treat the whole person, rather than just the ailment,” he said. “The feedback I get from the British here is that they enjoy the personal relationship with their GP.

“I also tell them that if a British patient makes an appointment, you can be sure it’s for something serious. The French consult for anything, whereas the British come only if they are really suffering.” A recent study, for example, found that 75 per cent of the French see their doctor for flu-like symptoms compared with 25 per cent of the British.

Dr Bonnel also advises GPs to avoid asking British patients to use suppositories — a common form of medicine in France — and to be aware of what he calls la pruderie anglaise. “I would never hesitate to tell a French woman to take off her clothes on her first appointment, even if she had just come with a cold,” he said. “But you have to be very careful about that sort of thing with English women.”

Begun in 2000, the scheme is proving so popular that the number of courses will be doubled in many regions next year. The need is underlined by British expatriate websites, which contain dozens of messages from families seeking English-speaking doctors.

The courses come at a time when the French authorities are trying to attract doctors to rural areas where the population is rising, partly as a result of the British influx. The Allier council in central France, for instance, last week put up “wanted” posters offering medical students annual grants of up to €18,000 (£12,000) if they agree to practise there for at least six years after qualifying.

Dr Léopold is typical of the rural GPs that officials are trying to cultivate. He has a practice in the village of Le Lonzac in the Limousin region of central France, where he now counts ten British families among his patients. He said: “They tend to be more docile than the French, who are very demanding about when they want an appointment and what treatment they should get.”
Say aah...

Clinical case studies for French GPs on Anglais Médical course. The cases are typical of those that they are likely to encounter in treating British patients

Sarah Higgins, 15, has spent the day sunbathing on the French Riviera. Her back and shoulders have turned quite red and she is extremely sore

Gordon Simpson, 45, feels queasy after a copious dinner of oysters, seafood and white wine in Brittany. During the night, he had several bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting

Heather Hurworth, 20, a student in Paris, comes from a close-knit family and broke up with her boyfriend just before leaving England. Now she is crying constantly and her family is alarmed

Gary Gibbon, 30, was taking a crate of bottles out of a van when he slipped and cut his forearm. He rushes to the doctor

Anthea Jones, 14, has been complaining of fever and a sore throat after an experience with a French boy. She asks her aunt to take her to the doctor

Derek Walker, 60, has been unable to pass water for a day and has been experiencing sharp pain in the lower tummy. A friend advises him to see the doctor