The sector has been all at sea for the past few years - which is why it's high time for some continuity, writes The Pharmacist's editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy.
Well, what a rollercoaster 2019 ended up being for community pharmacy. From a new contract and the appointment of not one but two new pharmacy ministers to Brexit upheaval and proposals to introduce pharmacy apprenticeships, it sure was quite a wild ride.
Now that the festive rush is over, contractors will no doubt be craving some stability for 2020 - and for good reason. After several years of punishing funding cuts and political uncertainty, what pharmacy really needs is some breathing space to allow it to concentrate on transforming into the service-first model the Government is pushing. How likely it is to get that, though, is anyone's guess, for the political push and pull of last few years has shown us that anything is possible, making the List of Potential Issues for Pharmacy rather lengthy.
As always, Brexit features highly on that list. Whether or not it's a good thing that last month's election result means it's pretty much a sure thing that Britain will exit the EU at some point this year will naturally depend on your political persuasion. But there is perhaps a ray of light for even the most hardcore remainers in that being able to plan for how to deal with the impact Brexit could have on your business (impossible during last year's interminable see-sawing and delays) is at least in sight.
Take the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), for example. The threat of a no-deal Brexit, which loomed so heavily over much for last year, is now much more unlikely given that Boris Johnson's deal with the EU has a higher chance of getting through following his command of such a large majority in December's general election. It follows, then, that all the work (not to mention expense) of preparing for and implementing the directive is no longer in jeopardy of going to waste.
How the apprenticeship plans - another key issue for the sector - will fare in 2020 is also anyone's guess. Indeed, there are reports that they have been stalled for the second time since they were first mooted in April. Monitoring the progress of the proposals will be key for pharmacists on the ground in the coming months, as their introduction could have far-reaching consequences for the sector.
So will the coming months offer pharmacy that much-needed stability? Well, as 2019 showed us, anything could happen over the next year. But you can rest assured that The Pharmacist will be bringing you the latest news as it comes, allowing you to effectively plan your business, for the whole of 2020 and beyond. Happy new year.