The government is to abolish the supplement paid for having a prescription filled out of hours by an on-call pharmacy, federal health minister Maggie De Block has announced. At present pharmacies who are on call outside of normal opening hours can charge a five-euro supplement on prescription medication. De Block, herself a physician, wants to do away with the extra charge, and will come up with government funding to compensate pharmacists.
Pharmacies take turns in providing out of hours coverage in their local area. Normally, any given pharmacist is on call for a week, with lists of local participants posted on every pharmacy as well as online in French or Dutch. The supplement is intended to compensate pharmacists for night duty, for which they are not paid, and do not receive time off in lieu.
“On-call pharmacists sometimes have no customers at all during the night, so they receive no compensation. Soon that will no longer be the case,” De Block said.
The pharmacists’ federation stresses that the on-call service is only for genuine emergencies, and not for customers looking for toothpaste or after-sun cream. Anyone who tries to buy non-prescription goods regardless of that advice will still have to pay a supplement; the change only applies to medication prescribed by a doctor, such as a locum or accident and emergency physician, De Block said.
In return, De Block has set aside eight million euros of public money to compensate participating pharmacists. A proposal was approved this week by the parliament’s public health committee.