Pharmacists call the helpline asking the NPA to explain the key points of the new contractual framework “in as few minutes as possible”, Mr Lyonette told C+D in an exclusive interview at the Conservative party conference on October 1.
It also receives calls asking what the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which launches on October 29, involves, he said.
It is “very telling” that people are “trying to get in a 10-minute or 20-minute phone call what might otherwise take an hour or two to digest”, he added.
For owners of single pharmacies, who are having to provide day-to-day services while being “their own head office”, it can be a “massive burden” to digest and implement the new funding deal, Mr Lyonette said.
Although the funding document may only take an hour to read, it is a “big challenge” when pharmacists are “working crazy hours”.
“We have to make funding work from year one”
Another challenge the sector faces is having to “make the funding work from year one”, Mr Lyonette warned.
“Whether that be thinking about [pharmacy] supervision and delegation, getting the most out of the whole team, [or] thinking about hub-and-spoke [dispensing], many of those things probably aren't going to land within that five-year period,” he added.
The NPA’s “first ask” from the government is that it realises the funding challenge “is very significant”.
“The money is really, really, bad, people are routinely dispensing at a loss [and] struggling to make sense of how that can be the case,” Mr Lyonette added.
“Take stock” of sector’s mental health
The second point the NPA wants to convey to the government is that it “needs to take stock of what is going on with people’s physical and mental health”.
The ability of contractors to adapt to the changes set out in the framework is “really limited” when the sector is struggling to “keep [itself] above water”, Mr Lyonette explained.
NPA members are “increasingly trying to be” part of joined-up NHS care pathways, but are in a “very different space” than other care professionals, such as GPs, when it comes to mental health and stress support, he added.
“Is that going to be a good place to try and change from? No. You also ultimately worry about safety, and you worry about patients.”
This opening line of this article has been amended to clarify that the 500 calls to the NPA a day are not solely about the funding contract.