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GPs much more likely to spot domestic violence following in-depth training

GP practices are much more likely to spot signs of domestic abuse and to refer patients after receiving in-depth training, according to Queen Mary University and Bristol Medical School research.

The study observed 144 London GP practices with IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety) training over four years, and found that domestic violence and abuse referrals increased as much as 30-fold. 

The four-year study also included a further 61 practices receiving a stand-alone education session, and found the number of referrals from these practices remained roughly the same. 

The publication of these findings come as recent reports suggest the Covid-19 lockdown has placed those living with abusive partners at greater risk of domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Refuge, the largest domestic abuse charity in the UK, recently announced that it had received 50% more calls and a 400% increase in website traffic since the lockdown measures began. 

Over 900 GP practices in England and Wales are IRIS trained. The programme supports primary care staff within GP practices ‘to recognise and respond to DVA’ and ‘increases awareness’ of the issue within general practice, according to the enterprise behind the programme.  

The programme also involves adapting electronic medical records to prompt health workers to ask further questions about DVA when presented with clinical conditions such as depression, anxiety or injury.  

It also comes as the Government’s ‘landmark’ Domestic Abuse Bill returned to parliament for a second reading, following long delays. As well as creating the first statutory definition of domestic abuse and ‘transforming’ the response in the justice system, the bill aims to ‘drive better performance in response to domestic abuse across all local agencies and sectors’.

Co-author of the study and University of Bristol Professor Gene Feder said: ‘This is a landmark study, showing that an evidence-based DVA programme commissioned within the NHS is effective and sustainable in general practice. Our findings strengthen the case for the implementation of IRIS across the whole NHS and further development of a global primary care-based response to DVA.’


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