Barmers Pharmers

The French system of pharmacies fascinates me. It’s a kind of privatised state monopoly so that, for example, you still cannot just go and pick up some paracetamol or ibuprofen in a Super-U or Intermarché. You have to go to the pharmacy. And, in the pharmacy, you will almost certainly have to wait for a long time…

Pharmacies seem like a bit of a growth industry, too. When was the last time a new one opened near you in the UK? Here in France, I can think of three brand new pharmacies that have opened up within 20 minutes drive, all in the last few years.

I was just down in the hill in the closest one to us getting a negative test for the journey home. We were waiting there 90 minutes, and there were three (3) long queues. One was for people getting vaccinated. Unlike in the UK – where they’ll pop you out to the 15 minute waiting area and get on with the next jab – in this pharmacy, they did the 15 minute wait with each client, and then printed off a hard copy of their certificate. All of which meant that each jab took a good 20 minutes. The second queue was to be tested, and it was whole families. So that was upwards of about half an hour per client(s). And then the third queue was for regular pharmacy customers.

Even that last one, even in normal times, you can be waiting ages. They have seats at the counter, ffs. You sit down and some customers are sitting there for 10-15 minutes, while everybody just stands around waiting. And this is in a situation, remember, where you can’t buy so much as a bog-standard paracetamol – or even a tube of Berocca! – anywhere else. It’s absolute madness.

You wonder what the impact would be on this industry if there was some kind of deregulation, like there was in the UK all those years ago. Catastrophe, no doubt.

Anyway, after all that waiting, we got our negative tests, and our totally unnecessary printouts (two per test) and we managed to dodge the vaccine dodgers — I hope. Now we just have to run the gauntlet of the French motorway system, and hope we don’t get hassle from the gendarmes for being British in charge of a motor vehicle*.

*We’re totally legal, by the way, as all the women in the family are French citizens and I am the spouse of a French citizen.

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