Boots pharmacies are being used as safe spaces to help victims of domestic abuse seeking support during the coronavirus lockdown.
Victims will be able to contact domestic abuse support services from the multiple’s consultation rooms across its 2,400 UK stores from Friday (May 1).
Domestic abuse charity Hestia has been overseeing the initiative as part of its ‘UK Says No More’ campaign in response to increased challenges faced by victims who are forced to isolate at home with their abusers.
Boots’ counter staff will guide them to the safe space installed in the consultation rooms where they will find 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline, the men’s advice line and phone numbers for services specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We recognise that key workers in pharmacies hold a unique position within the community as a single point of contact for victims,” Hestia Head of ‘UK Says No More’ campaign Lyndsey Dearlove said.
“By creating this safe space in Boots pharmacies, we hope many will be able to safely access support whilst following Government guidelines. We hope more pharmacies will follow Boots UK’s lead and join the ‘safe space’ initiative,” she added.
Hestia said it had seen a 47 per cent rise in victims using its free domestic abuse support app Bright Sky during the lockdown.
Chief Pharmacist Boots UK, Marc Donovan, said: “Our pharmacies have long been a place where people can turn to for help and advice on their local high street. At times like these, our 2,400 stores in communities across the UK take on increased importance, as a place of safety for those who need one.
“We hope that making our consultation rooms safe spaces we can help people find the support they need at this difficult time, when many other options are temporarily unavailable.
“This is something our pharmacy teams feel very passionately about, and would like to thank them for stepping forward to help at a time when they are under tremendous pressure.”
A survivor of domestic abuse, who lived in a Hestia domestic abuse refuge, said: “Being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life changing for many.”
Other pharmacies are encouraged to join the initiative
Encouraging other pharmacies to follow suit, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Sandra Gidley, said: “During the pandemic, when options for survivors and victims are even more limited than usual, pharmacies can provide the safe environment needed to get support.
“The trust that the public have in pharmacies make them an ideal place to access help and take a step away from harm towards a better future.”
Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said: “We are encouraging all pharmacies to consider becoming a safe space, to help people experiencing domestic abuse access vital support they may need.
“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.”