A codeword scheme for victims of domestic abuse launched in community pharmacies during Covid restrictions will continue indefinitely, the Home Office has said.

The Government scheme enables people at risk of or suffering from abuse to ‘Ask for ANI’ (action needed immediately) in a participating pharmacy and receive support from a trained pharmacy team member.

Since its launch in January 2021, the scheme — which is running in over 4,700 pharmacies in the UK — has helped at least 59 people experiencing domestic abuse, a Home Office spokesperson told The Pharmacist today (27 October).

They also said that the scheme had ‘no official end date’ and is ‘regularly monitored’ to evaluate its ‘effectiveness and relevance’.

The spokesperson added: ‘The successful Ask for ANI codeword scheme provides a simple and discreet way for domestic abuse victims to get immediate help.

‘Over half of all pharmacies across the UK have signed up to deliver the scheme, including Boots, and promotion activity is estimated to have reached over 16 million people.’

Last week (18 October) Labour MP Lyn Brown asked in a written question to the Home Office whether the Government planned to launch an expert-led public awareness campaign on male violence against women and girls, following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

In a response published on the website yesterday (26 October), Conservative MP Rachel Maclean referred to several Government-run campaigns including the ‘Ask for ANI’ codeword scheme, which she said was running in almost half of all pharmacies across the UK.

The Ask for ANI scheme is one of two pharmacy initiatives launched in recognition of the impact Covid restrictions have had on the ability of victims to reach out for help and support.

The other – Safe Spaces – was launched in May last year by charity Hestia and sees pharmacies use their consultation rooms as a place for victims to access information on domestic abuse support and safely make calls for assistance.

A spokesperson from Hestia told The Pharmacist that Safe Spaces also had no end date.

However, they could not say how many people had used the service due to the nature in which meetings with patients are recorded.

In May, The Pharmacist looked into whether pharmacy will be key to tackling domestic abuse in the long term.