New Domestic Abuse Mental Health Service Available Across Lincolnshire

11 May 2023

Written by: Hannah McGowan

A pilot for a new mental health response service is now running across selected Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacies to give aid to people experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or domestic abuse.

A pilot for a new mental health response service is now running across selected Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacies to give aid to people experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or domestic abuse.

The service is the result of a study conducted by a consortium of researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, University of Nottingham, University of York and King’s College London.

Just as a lifeguard would provide a watchful eye over swimmers to prevent them from getting into difficulty, the ‘Lifeguard Pharmacy’ service provides more than 40 fully trained professionals, across eight Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacies, to appropriately signpost those who are in danger of harm from either themselves or somebody else.

Typically, mental health service provision is accessed over the phone or requires prior bookings to be made. This unique new service means that no appointment is needed and adults over the age of 18 can drop in to access face-to-face, confidential consultations with trained community pharmacy staff who will signpost the consultee to the most appropriate service for their needs.

To ensure discretion, users can indicate their need for a consultation by displaying the life ring symbol at the counter, either by showing the image on a mobile phone or by picking up a branded card in-pharmacy. Users can also ask ‘to talk to the Lifeguard’.

Dr Josie Solomon, Professor in Human-Centred Health at the University of Lincoln, said: “I’m concerned about the number of people who are suffering in silence. It can be difficult to know how to ask for help when you most need it. This is a welcoming, drop-in service in the familiar environment of a pharmacy. You’ll be listened to and referred on to the most appropriate person.

“The inspiration for the project came from a chance encounter I had with a woman in distress whilst I was walking my dog. She had fled her home because of domestic abuse and had just spent one night sleeping rough. She was in an incredibly vulnerable situation. I made some phone calls with her and got her into accommodation.

“We have worked extensively with members of the public and with local services to create this service. People have been so supportive and keen to help. Even if we help just one person, save one life, then this will all have been worthwhile.”

Chris Kenny, Superintendent Pharmacist at Lincolnshire Co-op said: “At Lincolnshire Co-op, we strive to bring together ideas, energy and resources to make life better in our communities. Involvement in the innovative Lifeguard project has given us an opportunity to reach more people and have a positive impact on their wellbeing. It is exactly the kind of project we want to be involved in and is a really positive way to ensure we make every patient contact count.”

Pharmacist Jeff Law, who has been trained to deliver the Lifeguard Scheme, said: “As a pharmacist in our community, I have seen the need to support patients affected by serious mental health crises and domestic abuse increase greatly over the last few years. With the ‘Lifeguard’ training I am now more confident to have the difficult conversations surrounding suicidal thoughts and domestic abuse, and I also have the appropriate signposting in place to get patients the help they need.”

The research project, “Responding to people in danger: A feasibility study to co-develop a community pharmacy response service for domestic violence and suicidal ideation” and was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). To understand the needs of the community, the project team have created a public opinion survey, which is voluntary and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete: 

The service is available now and will run until Saturday 22 July 2023. Find out more online: or connect via Instagram and Facebook using the handle @lifeguardpharmacyhub.