Safe spaces have been set up in Boots pharmacies across the UK so that victims of domestic abuse can seek help during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The new scheme - launched as part of the campaign UK SAYS NO MORE set up by the domestic abuse charity Hestia - is using Boots’ consultation rooms as safe spaces which victims can use to call up various helplines if in need of assistance.

Head of the campaign at Hestia, Lyndsey Dearlove, said that the ‘unique position’ community pharmacy teams have within the community means they can be ‘single point of contact for victims’.

She added: ‘By creating this safe space in Boots pharmacies, we hope many will be able to safely access support whilst following Government guidelines.’

The scheme has been introduced across the UK in response to the sudden rise in domestic abuse cases which have occurred since the UK lockdown was imposed in March. Many victims are isolated and living with their perpetrators, and due to restrictions on movement, many are unable to reach out for support from friends and family.

Calls to domestic abuse helpline increase

According to Refuge, The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in requests for help since the lockdown began.

One survivor of domestic abuse of Sara* spoke of why pharmacies - one of the few public places still open during the lockdown - make such a good port of call for domestic abuse victims to get help.

‘An abuser wouldn't really think that their victim could access help at the local pharmacy or be able to have a moment in a place like that. So being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life-changing for many.’

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Sandra Gidley supports the initiative to promote pharmacies as safe spaces for those experiencing domestic abuse during the pandemic, and encourages ‘other pharmacies to take part and become a safe space for those experiencing domestic abuse.’

She said: ‘Home is not a safe place for people experiencing domestic abuse. Victims need to do all they can to stay safe which is why the UK SAYS NO MORE's initiative to create safe spaces in nominated pharmacies is so important.

‘During the pandemic, when options for survivors/victims are even more limited than usual, pharmacies can provide the safe environment needed to get support.

The trust that the public has in pharmacies make them an ideal place to access help and take a step away from harm towards a better future.’

Similar steps to protect domestic abuse victims which involve pharmacies have been taken elsewhere in Europe. France and Spain told victims to seek help in pharmacies by using a codeword - staff have been trained on how to help victims.

The Pharmacist has created a tribute page for pharmacy staff who have lost their lives to the virus – for those who loved and cared for those who died to share their thoughts: find it here.

What’s happening in your area? Contact Isabel at [email protected] with any information that would be useful for us to share with community pharmacy colleagues