Theory-based communication skills training for medicine counter assistants to improve consultations for non-prescription medicines

Margaret Camilla Watson, Jennifer Anne Cleland, Jacqueline Mary Inch, Christine Margaret Bond, Jillian Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Context Medicine counter assistants (MCAs) supply the majority of non-prescription medicines (NPMs) to consumers. Suboptimal communication during consultations between consumers and MCAs has been identified as a major cause of inappropriate supply. Evidence from medical consultations suggests that training in specified communication skills can change professional behaviour.

Methods A feasibility study was conducted to evaluate the effect of theory-based communication skills training for MCAs. Thirty MCAs were recruited from 21 community pharmacies in Grampian, Scotland. The intervention comprised 2 4-hour training sessions, held 1 month apart. The sessions were informed by results from previous studies and the Calgary-Cambridge evidence-based model of communication skills training. Strategies for guiding individuals through change were adopted from cognitive behavioural therapy techniques. The theory of planned behaviour was used to assess potential pathways to behaviour change. Recorded data were collected during covert visits to the pharmacies by simulated patients at baseline and 1 month after each training session. Communication performance was measured as the number and type of questions asked.

Results Compared with baseline measures, the total number of questions asked increased in the intervention group at both timepoints. No change was shown in the control group between baseline and follow-up 1, and a decrease was shown in the total number of questions from follow-up 1 to 2. The intervention appeared to have greater effect on consultations involving advice, compared with those concerning product requests.

Discussion Communication performance improved following training. Increased information exchange is associated with guideline-compliant supply of NPMs. A substantive randomised, controlled trial is now planned to assess the intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-459
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Education
Issue number5
Early online date5 Apr 2007
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


  • communication
  • drugs, non-prescription
  • pharmacy/education
  • health personnel/education
  • Scotland
  • feasibility studies
  • patient simulation
  • professional competence/standards
  • professional-patient relations
  • community pharmacies
  • practitioners


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