Thousands of pharmacies participate in domestic abuse codeword scheme

Exclusive: The ‘Ask for ANI’ codeword scheme aims to help victims of domestic abuse get immediate help from their local pharmacy.
empty consultation room

More than 4,000 community pharmacies are now participating in the ‘Ask for ANI’ domestic abuse codeword scheme, according to figures shared with The Pharmaceutical Journal.

According to data shared by the Home Office, 2,300 Boots pharmacies along with 1,924 other pharmacies across the UK are now participating in the ‘Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately)’ scheme, which aims to help victims of domestic abuse get immediate help, via their local pharmacy, from the police or other support services.

Since its launch on 14 January 2021, the government-backed scheme has been used more than 35 times, by a range of people who have experienced domestic abuse, including both men and women, and people from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

The Ask for ANI scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help.

When individuals come into a participating pharmacy and ask for ANI, a trained member of the pharmacy team will offer a private and safe space where the individual can ask to speak to the police or to access support services, such as a national or local domestic abuse helplines. 

At its launch, the Home Office said that the scheme would initially involve 2,300 Boots stores along with 255 independent pharmacies, but a further 1,669 other pharmacies across the UK have now signed up to take part.

“The numbers accessing support via the scheme so far may be small, but the impact on those people will have been profound,” a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association said.

“By helping vulnerable people in this way, community pharmacies are once again proving they are so much more than just a place to pick up pills.”

The codeword scheme has been promoted by way of discreet social media adverts, and participating pharmacies have also been given promotional material to display in store to signal to victims that they are participating.  

Other healthcare professionals, social workers and job centres have also been asked to promote the scheme, alongside police, local authorities and specialist support services for victims of domestic abuse.   

The Ask for ANI scheme is intended to work alongside, and build on, existing work to support those experiencing domestic abuse, and provide an additional tool that can be used to help the most vulnerable victims access emergency support in the community.

It complements the charity Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE Safe Spaces initiative, which also runs in pharmacies, by enabling pharmacy staff to offer immediate and emergency assistance.

The codeword scheme was announced by prime minister Boris Johnson at the Hidden Harms summit in 2020, in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the ability of victims to reach out for help and support. 

Ask for ANI is being independently evaluated by Ipsos MORI, and the Home Office plans to work with local areas to assess how the scheme is working and understand how it can be improved and adapted to meet local needs.  

Pharmacies can sign up to participate in the scheme here.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2021, Vol 306, No 7947;306(7947)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.61374

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in