GPs are in a ‘unique position’ to play a key role in combating domestic violence, according to the Department of Health, the RCGP, and Public Health England.
In their joint support of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November) – the health bodies have said that GPs are in a ‘unique position to empower women’ to seek help because they speak to women and families over a long period of time.
GP also have an important role to in the domestic homicide reviews by involving their patients, sharing their understanding, information and learning – and this can help improve the response across the health and care system locally, as well as nationally, DH said.
According to DH, around 1.2m women experienced domestic abuse in the last year in England and Wales, and 76 women were killed by their current or former partner.
Public Health England has also launched a new toolkit to help organisations support people experiencing domestic abuse.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘GPs are at the frontline in recognising and helping those experiencing domestic violence and abuse. But domestic violence is still a taboo subject, with a lot of societal stigma attached.
‘The difficulty for GPs in identifying patients and their children exposed to violence is that they rarely present with physical signs of abuse or disclose spontaneously during the consultation. This can be even more complex for patients who are in same sex and transgender relationships.
‘GPs need to be able to respond appropriately and safely to patients we suspect are in violent relationships but who are worried about speaking out and seeking help.’