By Neil Trainis
North east London local pharmaceutical committee secretary Hemant Patel has warned community pharmacists need to receive “influencing, negotiating and leadership skills” training if they are to have an impact in primary care network (PCN) meetings.
Mr Patel (pictured), who recently called for LPCs in England to be funded annually to the tune of £3 million collectively to ensure pharmacists regularly attend PCN meetings, said those meetings will demand skills community pharmacists do not have at present.
Mr Patel said the skills that were lacking included working collaboratively to co-produce solutions, thinking outside the box and having the ability to influence discussions.
He said community pharmacists had traditionally been good at replicating already established solutions and were used to a “formulaic approach rather than a socially co-produced approach” to problem-solving, something he picked up during a recent local training session.
“We had a session in north east London and I was observing and trying not to participate. What I observed was that there were people who were very uncomfortable with that type of meeting because we were simulating meetings and negotiations,” Mr Patel said in an interview to be published in next month’s Independent Community Pharmacist.
“They were sat on a group of eight per table and they had to agree who was going to be the leader and they had to negotiate with other tables to come to an agreement.
“And if there was agreement, both made money. If there was no agreement, neither of them did. What I learned from that was that pharmacists were very good at reading and learning or going to a lecture and learning and then going and doing something which has been taught to them, ie, somebody has done the hard work of producing a solution and they want to just replicate it.
“But when it came to sitting in a group and looking at different perspectives and coming to an agreement through negotiations and creating co-produced solutions, they were very, very uncomfortable.”
Patel said that in a real PCN meeting, community pharmacists may be faced with questions that might cause them difficulties because they have not had any leadership or negotiation training.
“(In a PCN meeting), they would say ‘in our locality, here is the problem, ie, we have got a hundred people who are suffering from high blood pressure. Now, how do we go about reaching them, how do we go about providing a service and how much do we pay people providing the service?’” he said.
“Those kind of questions would cause real problems because there is no leadership training and no negotiation training.
“They are clinically competent but in terms of the leadership and negotiation, there are serious weaknesses because we are used to a formulaic approach rather than a socially co-produced approach.
“What I observed (in the session) was some people sat there and withdrew mentally. Others tried to dominate the discussions and others were happy to allow the dominant personality to carry on and be told what to do and go with the flow.
“Where are all these pharmacists going to get influencing skills from? Solutions are not going to be ready-made. The solutions will need to be influenced and co-produced, so there’s a whole set of new skills needed to go forward.”
Patel said it was not the responsibility of one body to teach pharmacists these skills but rather all organisations that “are promoting participation in primary care networks".
He added: “At a local level, we are investing serious time and money. I think [pharmacists need to] understand why they need to do the new skills training.
“Now, we’ve got a situation where they’re financially stressed. They’ve got to be developing their clinical skills and in addition to the clinical skills, learn about influencing, negotiating and leadership skills.
“So there’s a lot to do going forward. Where they get these things right, I see success. Otherwise, I see a massive collapse. And reputational damage as well.”