During the Covid-19 pandemic, many victims of domestic abuse have found themselves more isolated and may be finding it difficult to access help and support.

The Government has launched the ‘Ask for ANI’ domestic abuse codeword scheme to help victims access emergency support in the community.

In the Northumbria Police area, domestic abuse victims will now be able to use the code word “ANI” (Assistance Needed Immediately) in Boots pharmacies to let staff know that they require an emergency police response or help contacting a specialist support service/helpline.

Participating pharmacies will display posters in their window and around the shop to let customers know that they can approach their staff to seek help.

When a victim uses the codeword or asks for help, the member of staff will ask the victim to accompany them to a consultation room. They will then check whether the victim is in danger and wants the police to be called.

If so, the staff member will offer the use of a phone to dial 999 or make the call on the victim’s behalf. This may be the only opportunity for a victim to contact the police and get immediate help, but in some cases the victim may not need emergency help and the staff member will assist them to contact a national domestic abuse helpline or local support service. They may also contact the police via 101.

The scheme will be initially available through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies. There will be an on-going sign-up process open to all pharmacies.

Boots has pharmacies in King Street and Prince Edward Road in South Shields, Bede Precinct in Jarrow and St James Mall in Hebburn.