Naina Chotai

The National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) has urged pharmacy employers to sign up to a recently launched codeword scheme that offers ‘lifeline’ to victims of domestic abuse.

The Action Needed Immediately (ANI) scheme scheme aims to stop a steep rise in the number of domestic violence victims and avert the incidents of domestic violence in the future.

“NAWP welcomes ANI to address the rise in domestic violence but cautions that not all pharmacies are aware of the scheme,” NAWP said on Thursday (Jan 28).

To limit the rising number of domestic incidents, especially during Covid-19 pandemic, the Home Office on Jan 14 launched the ANI scheme in thousands of community pharmacies across the UK, allowing those suffering from (or at risk of) domestic abuse to signal discreetly to pharmacy staff that they need assistance and support.

Naina Chotai, president of NAWP, said: “Pharmacies were encouraged to become Safe Spaces for victims of domestic abuse in May 2020 but the ANI codeword scheme is new. It is vital that all pharmacies are aware of the scheme. NAWP urges pharmacy employers to sign up to the scheme and to ensure that their staff are fully briefed and trained.”

Helen Lewis, NAWP member and PDA Union regional official for West England and Wales, said: “One concern is that the way Ask for ANI has been reported in the media implies that victims of abuse could go to any pharmacy for help.

“Of course, pharmacies are used to assisting people in need so would still help but if the staff at a particular pharmacy have not been properly informed about the scheme and have not received any training, this could put victims of abuse at further risk and could also pose a threat to pharmacy staff themselves.”

Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, reported that calls to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by 25 per cent during the first week of the first national lockdown in March last year.

The Refuge website also saw an increase in traffic of 150 per cent. During the first three weeks of the Covid-19 restrictions being imposed, at least 16 women were killed in domestic abuse-related incidents, which is more than triple the usual number.

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