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Pharmacies should be involved in child protection measures

The government initiative to spread public awareness about Ebola would have been considerably impaired had it not recognised the potential of pharmacies to inform, monitor and reassure.

Yet in tackling more widespread and immediate threats to public health and well-being, the skills of pharmacists and their high frequency of public contact is largely overlooked.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has recently predicted (as suspected by informed observers) that organised grooming and child abuse is unlikely to be confined to those places such as Rotherham, where it has been belatedly uncovered.

Teachers and doctors have been asked to increase vigilance in detecting signs that the vulnerable in their care are being mistreated, but pharmacy has not been included in the group of professions asked to help counter this urgent, widespread, hidden yet catastrophic threat to young lives.

The routine access to the public of pharmacists, particularly those working in the community, is undoubtedly greater than of any other health or caring profession. In monitoring the behaviour of clients and customers, pharmacists have the added advantages of routinely encountering those who are not presenting as unwell and of not being generally regarded as part of the establishment.

Mistreated children may be kept from the doctor, not sent to school and remain below the radar of social services but they will be with carers when they visit pharmacies to buy toothpaste or painkillers or perhaps “something for a bruise”. Perhaps the child or infant thus inadvertently placed on view will arouse suspicion in his demeanour or physical condition, or perhaps more subtle signs will alert the professional behind the counter.

Pharmacy needs to step up to the plate: to stress how useful its practitioners could be in this caring role, to demonstrate the benefits of intervention, to seek the provision of training in clinical observation and a means of reporting concerns, and to play a front-line part in reducing the effects of a creeping malady in our society.

Peter Lowe

Newcastle Upon Tyne

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20066921

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