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RCGP launches new guidance to help practices respond to domestic abuse

Patients who disclose domestic abuse to GPs should be directly referred to specialist services, new guidance from the RCGP has recommended.

The guidance, funded by the Department of Health, has been launched to help practices respond to domestic abuse quickly and effectively.

Among its recommendations are for practices to develop an internal referral route to assess and refer patients, for example by using practice nurses with extra training in handling domestic abuse cases.  

It advises that practices set up domestic abuse pathways, so that practice teams understand the correct processes for identifying abuse, responding to disclosure, risk assessment, referral and information sharing.

The guidance also recommends that practice managers should ensure their teams have adequate domestic abuse training, and that strong partnerships should be built with local domestic abuse services.

The guidance was produced by the RCGP in collaboration with the national domestic abuse charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA), and the Identification & Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) course, a general practice-based domestic violence and abuse training support and referral programme.

Professor Gene Feder, RCGP domestic violence co-champion and project lead for IRIS, said: ‘Domestic violence is a public health concern and an RCGP clinical priority. GPs are increasingly aware of this, but many practices do not have clear care pathways for how to respond to victims.

‘Targeted at practice managers and clinicians, this guidance supports practices to respond appropriately and safely to women and men experiencing abuse.'

Diana Barran, chief executive of CAADA said: ‘There isn't a victim, child or perpetrator who doesn't have a GP. This means that GPs are in a unique and trusted position to help victims through early identification and signposting to specific support services. By supporting GPs to give a consistent response, this new guidance will help make victims safer.'