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Government backs UK-wide pharmacy codeword for domestic abuse safe spaces

The ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme will enable people who are experiencing domestic abuse to speak to a trained pharmacist.

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Anyone who uses the ‘ANI’ codeword will be invited to a private space within the pharmacy to discuss contacting the police or accessing domestic abuse support services

A codeword scheme to help people experiencing domestic abuse to access help from their local pharmacy has launched across the UK.

The ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme, which is backed by the government, will initially run across 2,300 Boots stores and 255 independent pharmacies. Anyone using the ‘ANI’ codeword will be invited to a private space within the pharmacy, where they can talk to a trained pharmacy worker to discuss contacting the police or accessing domestic abuse support services.

Pharmacies will be given promotional material to display in store to show that they are participating in the codeword scheme. It will also be advertised through social media.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, said that Boots “hope with the new codeword scheme we can continue to help people access the support they need quickly, safely and discreetly.

“This is something our pharmacy teams feel very passionately about, and we are proud of their continued dedication [to] supporting those in need at a time of such extraordinary challenge.”

The scheme is intended to complement the ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign, which was launched by the charity Hestia on 1 May 2020. This saw community pharmacy consultation rooms made available as ‘safe spaces’ for people experiencing domestic abuse, allowing them a private space to phone case workers or access other support services.

Lyndsey Dearlove, head of domestic abuse prevention at Hestia, said that the safe spaces initiative now covers nearly 5,000 pharmacies across the UK.

“As lockdown measures continue to have an impact on everyday life, we know it is vital for victims of domestic abuse to continue to have access to specialist support,” Dearlove said, adding that “our foundations with businesses and community pharmacies have enabled us to work alongside the Home Office to provide a long-term commitment to supporting domestic abuse victims.

“Although we are in a period of lockdown and isolation, our message to victims is: domestic abuse services are open and we can help you.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it was “vital that we do all we can to help those experiencing domestic abuse when home is no longer safe for them”.

“As trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists and their teams can provide a safe environment for people to get the help they need, and we encourage more pharmacies to play their part and sign up to help those facing abuse.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2021.20208741

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