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Pharmacies to provide safe spaces for victims of domestic abuse

The initiative is a partnership between domestic abuse charity Hestia and Boots
The initiative is a partnership between domestic abuse charity Hestia and Boots

Boots has partnered with the UK Says No More campaign to turn its consultation rooms into “safe spaces” for victims of domestic abuse, and other pharmacies can join the initiative.

People who are experiencing domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic can walk into any Boots branch in the UK from today (May 1) and ask the pharmacist if they can use the consultation room.

Once inside the room, “all the specialist domestic abuse support information will be available” and if the person needs to contact a domestic abuse support service, they can “make that call safely”, according to the website set up for the campaign.

The initiative is a partnership between Hestia – a charity offering support to victims of domestic abuse and modern slavery and those with mental health needs – and Boots. It is supported by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Any pharmacy can join

Any pharmacy in the UK can join the initiative, and more information about which steps to take to do so is available on the campaign website, including social media promotion suggestions and a campaign toolkit.

NPA policy manager Helga Mangion said the organisation encourages “all pharmacies to support charitable and official initiatives that help people experiencing domestic abuse to get support.”

“We hope that many pharmacies will consider using their consultation rooms as a safe space, in the way that Boots and some independent pharmacies have already chosen to do,” she added.

However, the NPA “recognises the extraordinary strain that pharmacies are already under, and that this is by no means a straightforward matter”, she added.

Sector bodies back campaign

The GPhC also encourages all pharmacies to take part in the scheme. Chief executive Duncan Rudkin said that although pharmacies are very busy at this time, “participating in this scheme is another important way in which they can safeguard vulnerable people”.

“Pharmacies are in the frontline in supporting the healthcare needs of patients and the public during the COVID 19 pandemic in the community and are one of the few places that are open to people who may need help,” he added.

The RPS is also encouraging pharmacies to participate, and president Sandra Gidley said it is “as simple as making your consultation room available for a phone call to the relevant agency who can help”.

“A quick, simple action which could literally save a life,” she added.

The UK has seen a rise in domestic abuse since the COVID-19 lockdown, with Hestia reporting a 47% increase in victims contacting the charity through its Bright Sky domestic abuse support app.

Do you plan on implementing the initiative in your pharmacy?

Matthew Edwards, Community pharmacist

Not signing up to this. Will signpost to my local boots

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Usually find very low prosecution rate also from victims, glad i got out from pharmacy another Ivory Tower idea, Boots Blue Sky thinking maybe if they paided their taxes then there would be proper women refuges for the women to go  to get the proper help and advice !!!!

Brian Plainer, Locum pharmacist

The words Boots, asylum, lunatics and taking over spring to mind.

Pharmacy Tech, Pharmaceutical Adviser

My local Boots pharmacy has a queuing system outside the store so how will this work if a victim of domestic abuse wants to come in? Do they queue up with everyone else, do they go to the front and tell everyone? I don't understand why Boots have got involved in this especially with how busy pharmacy has been of late!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

That's a very good point. If they went to the front of the queue they would get some more abuse, that's for sure.

I reckon Boots are just in it for the good publicity. I wonder if they bothered to ask any of the pharmacists what they thought first (rhetorical question - I know the answer already)

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

please do not attempt to compete with Boots on this initiative . Send all worried patients to them pointing out their consultation areas are much larger than ours , much better equipped .nicer computers and more expensive laptops etc . More luxurious to make those long distance phone calls to your relatives abroad who you havent spoken to for years . They will not disturb you whilst making all those personal calls . Your privacy is guaranteed .                                                  Contact Chemist and Druggist to commission a new column for MR CAUSTIC.


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

But what do you do if Boots are closed, i.e. after 5.30 or during their lunch break? You can't turf someone out onto the street to face who knows what kind of violence

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

The community Pharmacists will be overloaded because domestic abuse is a massive umbrella term.You guys will be packed in your consultation rooms. Good luck!

*This comment has been edited to comply with C+D's community principles*

David Robertson , Administration & Support

dThis can put staff in danger.   My wife was a nurse in a health centre when a victim came in followed by the husband carrying a carving knife.   He had shortly before attacked her with a broken bottle.  Fortunately,  the police arrived and took him away.   The G.P'.'s? They locked themselves in until it was all over.

This happened in a crowded waiting room;  quite a scenario for your pharmacy.

Don't touch it!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Where can pharmacists and their staff seek refuge with all the demands and even abusive public heaped on them?

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

contact PSNC

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Ha, that's a thought. All the hacked off, stressed, abused, depressed pharmacists rocking up at the PSNC offices all at the same time seeking refuge. You're a cruel man Mr Caustic!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

We are firmly on our own. No support network, no help bodies, nothing. Just suck it up matey!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

No, no and No. This is another one of those initiatives dumped onto us with no training whatsoever. I'd say that most pharmacists are exactly the wrong kind of people to deal with this sort of issue - it takes time, which we don't have, calmness, which we don't have, levelheadedness, which we don't have and the ability to empathise, which we probably have in spades but because of the previous three are unable to show. Also, how on earth will this fit in with the idea of releasing unqualified pre-reg students out as pharmacists? Imagine getting a domestic abuse case as your first person through the door - no, this is a badly thought through idea, as others have said, there are better places for people to go.

Trouble is, of course, that we have no choice over whether we implement the initiative or not. Once word is out (regardless of whether you are signed up or not, people will just see the word 'pharmacy' and assume we are all doing it), what do you do if someone turns up at the counter who has suffered domestic abuse? You can't turf them back out so what do you do? Sit them in the consulting room with a brew? Bearing in mind I'm male and quite big, I'm probably not the sort of person a beaten wife (and yes, I know men are subject to domestic abuse as well, but it's mostly women) would want to see anyway, so I would have to delegate to a female member of staff but then what about social distancing? There are so many cans of worms opened up by this but now the cat's out the bag, it's something we all have to be aware of and I fervently hope that, for their sake and mine, no-one ever comes in.

Dee dee, Community pharmacist

A pharmacy is not the place to seek refuge or help from domestic violence? How on earth is a pharmacy more suited to this than any other place? Pharmacies could not be a more unsuitable , more public place to seek help. They are almost always busy. Almost always full of local people. Pharmacists are not trained in this area, personally I wouldn't know how to proceed. To be brutally honest, the workload as it is has far surpassed what is acceptable for my mental health without the burden of having to facilitate (for free) victims of domestic violence. Nor should victims be told to go to somewhere unqualified to offer the best advice or help. Etc etc etc. This is an utter misuse of a pharmacy. Boots will quietly drop this once it's been milked to the max for PR. There are many other more suitable places not to mention the plethora of organisations and services that are there to help unfortunate men and women who fall victim to domestic violence.  

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Totally with you on this - I wouldn't have the foggiest idea what to do. A pat on the head and a 'there there' probably wouldn't hack it. As you say, we are all frazzled to the point of collapse so are probably the worst option unless crying on each others shoulders counts as help (from 2 metres away, of course!)

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

An utterly ridiculous idea. Pharmacy will be very keen. Do some work, zilch in return. 

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I quit the RPS because they thought we should do things for free - this is making me reconsider my GPhC membership!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm going to be out very soon. Pharmacy has become the NHS dumping ground for anything that they (and I say 'they' deliberately because it's become abundantly clear that we are firmly outside of the NHS Circle of Trust) don't know what to do with or is inconvenient to them. It's not what I signed up to do 30 years ago, I haven't agreed to any of the plethora of changes that have been introduced so it's time to bite the bullet, downsize and do something I enjoy instead. The thought of another 14 years doing this sort of crap until I can retire (which would be an 'if' anyway) fills me with utter despair.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

They want us to provide YET ANOTHER service for free? So, while we are providing a safe space, what happens when the nut-job who is turning the home in to an 'unsafe space' comes in looking for the victim? And when they kick-off, smashing up the pharmacy & assaulting staff? What then? Domestic violence is a horrific situation and I genuinely feel for anyone caught up but we are NOT social workers and we should not - no, scratch that - MUST NOT take on this role withoutout training, support & funding. This is not our fight.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The more you think about it the more this is relevant - I'm in a pharmacy with one other worker at the moment. If they are in the consulting room with the victim, I'm on my tod to face the irate other half who's been on the Stella all day and just wants someone to lash out at. Yeah, the pharmacy degree PROPER got me prepared for that scenario , didn't it? I'm afraid I didn't do the Martial Arts module.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Just do some CPD watching MMA videos on YouTube.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Channel my inner Conor McGregor - trouble is, once he's out, he's very difficult to get back in again!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Very well said. More proof, as if it was needed, of the regard in which we are held.

Brian Plainer, Locum pharmacist

Wait, there'll be an article posted soon advising of our risk of prosecution if the service isn't conducted under specific regulations. Can't wait for that one . . .

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Frankly they can prosecute away. I don't care any more.

V K P, Community pharmacist

In fact all government buildings are vacant for this purpose. schools, libraries, council buildings, home office, police stations, fire stations. the safest place would be the police station wouldnt it??? but no, the police are burdened with boredom hence pharmacy is frontline when it comes to safeguarding and all the other non sense. where is pharmacy when funding is being discussed. or more currently, how is it that the closed practices of the GPs are receivig PPE and not the pharmacies??? the unoccupied buildings require PPE?? how and for what??nor do you need masks for phone and video consultations. as far as i am aware COVID is not a cyber virus and masks are not antivirus softwares. 

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Unless there's some sort of government payout or clubcard points, I don't see what the shoe company would be getting out of this. 


I know another currently underused source where plenty of victims of domestic abuse can shelter...GP surgeries.

V K P, Community pharmacist

also the dentists and opticians.  oooh Mr Rudkin,  so we are frontline again when it comes to doing free donkey work?????? the GPhC building is vacant as well isnt it. fully paid for by the underpaid pharmacists and pharmacies. this is a nice way of brushing aside the closure of 60 boots stores. the bad press is avoided by promoting such scams in partnership with charities. ROFL

C A, Community pharmacist

Maybe the GPhC would like to chime in on how the DoH are "profiteering" by getting pharmacies do take on this extra work for free?


Hmm... thought not.

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