The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) believes there are profound benefits to be had from face-to-face interaction between patients and pharmacists. Sue Hobdey, NPA head of learning and development, looks at the role of support staff

Quite often, people will visit a pharmacy and not actually speak to a pharmacist. Customers will, however, usually be served by other members of the pharmacy team when they are purchasing OTC products, for instance. It is these members of staff who have a chance to engage with customers.

Browsing shelves, making choices, approaching the counter, speaking to the team, and the way their eyes and hands move are all indicative actions that tell us something about customers. It is important to look out for these body language signs to see if a customer may want more advice or a confidential word with the pharmacist. Other visual cues, such as level of alertness, intoxication and state of dress, can also be telling and cannot be observed without face-to-face interaction.

All pharmacy staff should use their questioning techniques and actively listen when assessing customers’ needs in order to give both excellent customer service and check for any concerns. For example, according to Age UK, one million people over the age of 65 are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. Noticing things like slipped wedding rings, loose clothing or snippets picked up in conversation can help identify malnutrition. All concerns of this nature should be reported to the responsible pharmacist.

The NPA has a number of resources aimed at developing communication skills and helping pharmacy teams to identify health and wellbeing issues. These include the Healthy Living Champion Course and NPA Business Learning Modules.



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