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Pharmacy domestic abuse disclosures rise by 32% in a year

Pharmacists have helped almost 200 patients to get support for domestic abuse since 2021, the government has revealed.  

There were at least 186 disclosures of domestic abuse made to pharmacists between 2021 and 2023, Home Office minister Laura Farris revealed in parliament last week (February 23).

The disclosures were all made through the “Ask for ANI” (Action Needed Immediately) scheme, which Ms Farris said was “launched across pharmacies in the UK during the unprecedented emergency of the pandemic in January 2021”.

Under the scheme, domestic abuse victims who ask for “ANI” can discreetly let pharmacy staff know that they require an emergency police response or specialist support.

Responding to a question from Labour MP for Yardley Jess Phillips, Ms Farris said that of the total 186 disclosures made since the service’s launch, “38 were [made] in 2022 and 50 in 2023” – representing a 32% rise in disclosures year-on-year.

However, the remaining 98 reports were made the year the scheme was launched, in 2021.

 

“Likely to be an underestimate”

 

Ms Farris said that because “participating pharmacies are encouraged but not required to report disclosures to the Home Office”, the figures were “likely to be an underestimate”.

And she added that “an independent evaluation has been commissioned” looking at the scheme’s implementation that will “conclude this summer”.

The “Ask for ANI” scheme is also “currently being piloted in 15 Jobcentre Plus sites across England, Scotland and Wales and four Jobs and Benefits Offices in Northern Ireland”, she said.

In 2022, the Home Office said that the scheme was running “in over half of all UK pharmacies” including all of Boots’ branches.

But in the same year, an Oxford Mail investigation into the scheme revealed that just two of the seven Boots pharmacies signed up to the initiative in Oxford were able to assist the journalist when she asked for “ANI”.

In five pharmacies, the journalist was told that “ANI” did not work there and she was laughed at in two of these pharmacies after asking the question, she claimed.

At the time, the multiple said it was “disappointed to hear about this journalist’s experience” and was “already taking action to reissue training for [its] pharmacy team members”.

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