Customers who make use of the on-call pharmacy in their neighbourhood will soon be excused the extra fee charged at present, providing they are filling a prescription, the government had decided.
Each week, local pharmacies take turns providing an on-call service for customers needing medication out of normal working hours and at weekends. The service is intended for emergencies, but is often used by the public for non-essential purchases. Pharmacies providing the service are entitled to ask for a supplement to be paid, although in genuine medical cases this is often dropped.
“With this measure we want to make health care a little bit more available for patients,” said federal health minister Maggie De Block. “The principle however remains the same as before: if it’s not an emergency, don’t disturb the pharmacist at night or on Sunday, just go along during normal working hours.”
The government has now agreed with the profession to make that discretion official. Anyone turning up with a prescription to be filled outside of normal working hours will no longer be charged a supplement, making it easier for low-income patients to get the medicine they need when they need it, instead of waiting until the pharmacy opens in the morning. In return, the government has decided, pharmacists taking part in the on-call scheme will receive a fixed sum for each day they are on duty.
“Pharmacists on call sometimes have no customers at all during the night, and so they get no compensation,” De Block said when the measure was first announced. “That will soon no longer be the case.” The government estimated an annual budget of eight million euros for the cost of the compensation. The new system is expected to come into force before the end of the year.