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UK medical schools need to provide teaching on domestic violence

UK medical school teaching on domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is inadequate, according to a new study from the University of Bristol.

Eleven out of 25 medical schools which responded to an online survey said they only provided 0-2 contact hours on the subject over a five-year degree.

The study, which was published in The Clinical Teacher and funded by the RCGP’s Scientific Foundation Board, analysed the results of an online survey completed by teaching leads at 25 out of 34 medical schools in the UK.

It found that those schools offering teaching on domestic violence and abuse did so by a range of different methods and over different modules. The authors of the report said that policy makers should consider making DVA education mandatory.

Dr Lucy Potter, the study’s lead author from Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC), said: ’Doctors are central to the identification, safety and referral of DVA survivors, who are more likely to disclose abuse to them than to any other professionals. These findings show there is considerable variation in how much DVA education is taught to UK medical students. When considering the profound impact on health and wellbeing it is imperative that the future generation of doctors are equipped with sufficient training to be able to recognise the signs of DVA in patients and manage or refer them through the appropriate channels.’

Professor Gene Feder, study co-author, who leads research on DVA at the CAPC said: ’We need to move beyond tokenism with regard to DVA in medical training. This is long overdue and requires a national effort, not dependent on champions in individual medical schools.’

Thirty-five per cent of women worldwide have suffered abuse from their husband or partner. NICE guidelines recommend that teaching about DVA should be an integral part of medical education.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Cobblers

    There is the whole sweep of human problems that has to be crammed into 5 years. DVA is but one of a plethora.

    Keep pushing your agenda and maybe an extra hour or two? That would however be to the detriment of another topic. There's not much free time in medical school.

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  • Predictably the RCGP are behind this; do we do the Domestic Violence check before or after the Boiler check and the screening for gambling?

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  • Maverick

    UK medical schools need to advise medical students to avoid GP as a career.

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  • nope. far more other important medical related issues to cram into 5 years. few hours down the pub me thinks. jog on please

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  • This needs to be done at postgrad/specialty training level to be any good,surely.what a gp or psychiatrist in training needs to know is going to diverge quite a way from what orthopods , surgeons and obstetricians might need.

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  • Thanks for your comments. I agree DVA is one of many problems we may encounter in primary care but the burden of morbidity and mortality is much higher than many conditions we may be taught about in great detail. 2 women a week in England and Wales are killed by DVA, 41% of women in GP waiting rooms have experienced domestic violence (17% is current), it correlates with significantly higher rates of depression, PTSD, alcohol misuse, suicidal thoughts, chronic pain, STIs, gynaecological problems (to name but a few), it costs the NHS £1.73 billion (not including mental health costs), it harms children both directly and indirectly. Given these harms, Dr Cynic, I will not "jog on".

    I'm not saying we have to fix the problem or take on more work- the work is already in your waiting rooms, presenting with various health/ psychological problems. If we are empowered with knowledge and understanding of the issue and able to detect signs, ask about it, and connect people to the relevant expertise and support that is already out there, we may even save ourselves some work.

    We do need to do this at post-graduate level but in every single one of my foundation jobs I encountered a DVA issue in some form- it shouldn't just be GPs and psychiatrists, DVA can present to any specialty.

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