Change will define healthcare in 2020

McKesson UK CEO, Toby Anderson says that 2020 will be a year of change for everyone in healthcare, but there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Many of us will have spent some time over the last few weeks thinking about our own personal resolutions for the new year. Things that we can improve or do differently to help us be healthier and happier. Right now, every healthcare organisation will be setting themselves the same challenge. There’s an acceptance that things need to change in 2020, but where do we start?

Stories about pressures facing our NHS, GP waiting times and A+E queues, have dominated the news for the last few years and it shows no sign of relenting. The solution for this has to be for other healthcare professions to share the load. If we can increase patient choice and direct people away from hospitals and GPs unless absolutely necessary, we can free up time and space for the NHS to look after those that truly need it.

The NHS will always be our nation’s most prized asset, so the Government’s commitment to increase funding over the next few years is very welcome. This will be vital in helping to deliver the long-term plan and it will be interesting to see how this affects healthcare service providers like ourselves. We are excited by the opportunity for pharmacy to do even more to support the wider health service.

Community pharmacy can certainly ease some of the burden and release capacity for the NHS. Pharmacists are the most accessible, trusted healthcare professionals and they are ready to step up to deliver even more services. The Community Pharmacy Consultation Service is a great example of how they can be utilised effectively, but in order to reach their true potential, pharmacies need to be recognised as truly integrated partners of the NHS in the same way that GPs are.

There is also a huge opportunity for digital healthcare this year. The decline of the high street and changing consumer habits, means it’s even more important for digital alternatives to be available. There is still some work to do to build the trust and awareness of online services, but as people get more used to managing their lives online, they will naturally become more receptive to digital services. This will help more people to access the advice and support they need without having to visit a face-to-face NHS service.

There are times when physically visiting a pharmacist or GP is the most appropriate option for patients, so it’s important that we continue to protect the presence of healthcare experts within communities. By taking a truly omni-channel approach, it will enable more people to find a solution that works for them, whether it’s through bricks and mortar or online. By appealing to everyone, we can further empower patients to take more control over their health.

At McKesson UK we are preparing ourselves for a year of change across the industry and we want to be at the forefront. We are ready to help solve the nation’s healthcare challenges by doing things differently, but always keeping customers and patients close to our hearts.

For us to do this effectively, we need to be fully funded. But the reality is that the Government has frozen our income for eight years which has squeezed our margins and put us under increased pressure to close pharmacies and make tough commercial decisions. As community pharmacy is being asked to step up to ease the burden on our NHS, we need fair and flexible funding to help us do that. The Government must also help community pharmacies by providing them with the same business rate relief that other NHS contractors such as GPs and dentists have.

The new year brings with it a fresh sense of optimism and energy, particularly within the world of health and social care. For more than 70 years, our NHS has always pushed the boundaries and innovated in order to meet its challenges. With more stability and increased funding around the sector, I hope that 2020 will deliver the kind of fresh thinking that our health service needs and I’m excited to see how we can be a part of that.