A £1 million investment from London’s Violence Reduction Unit will provide training to nurses and doctors in general practice to assist them in identifying patients who may be experiencing domestic violence.
Specialist training for general practice staff is currently available in 10 boroughs. The new funding will expand the programme across 17 boroughs, providing two dedicated domestic violence advocates per borough, with the potential to support more than two million Londoners to access support and guidance. The programme has been developed by IRISi, a social enterprise which works to improve the response to gender-based violence in the health sector, along with partner organisations.
‘Over the last decade, IRISi programmes have trained teams in over 1000 general practice and directly supported over 15,500 women,’ said Medina Johnson, Chief Executive of IRISi.
‘We train doctors and nurses to be professionally curious and to think about domestic violence when they are speaking with, meeting with and consulting with a patient. We train them to think about questions like ‘‘might the patient I am with be affected by domestic violence and abuse?’’ Women tell us repeatedly that they want to be asked about what is going on for them at home and why their health is poor. They are at best, puzzled when nobody does and, at worst, left feeling alone, hopeless and unworthy of help.
This investment to increase the programme across seven additional boroughs in London will mean that direct, specialist support will be accessible to many more people because many more clinicians will be better equipped to ask about DVA and refer on.’
According to IRISi, 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and that these are often a victim’s first, or only, point of contact. Women using GP surgeries in London where practitioners have already been trained are six times more likely to be referred to specialist support and to have had a conversation about domestic violence with a healthcare provider. Patients at these practices also report feeling safer and more able to cope, with many reporting that they visited their general practice less frequently as a result.
‘Incidences of domestic abuse are unacceptably high, and the victims need urgent help – to keep victims safe, and also because we also know that domestic violence can manifest to wider violence,’ said Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.