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DH calls on GPs to help end violence against women

GPs in ‘unique position’ to empower women to seek help

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

General practitioners are ideally placed to support women facing domestic violence, according to the Department of Health, Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs. They called yesterday – the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – for GPs to make the most of their position of trust to empower women to seek help.

At the start yesterday of the ‘16 days of action’ campaign against domestic violence, the DH, PHE and RCGP said that over the past year in England and Wales alone, about 1.2m women experienced domestic abuse, and 76 were killed by their current or former partner. Furthermore, domestic violence is estimated to cost £15.7bn in both economic and human terms.

They pointed out that because of the high costs of domestic violence, even marginally effective intervention are cost effective. And they said that GPs are in a unique position, because they speak to women and their families over a long period, to empower women to seek help.

Jane Ellison, Minister for Public Health, said: “GPs are uniquely placed and trusted within their communities, and we hope that today’s initiative will help our doctors and nurses and people providing public services to encourage women to come forward and speak out. Domestic violence is a complex issue and we need to provide the help and support that women need to move forward.”

The DH, PHE and RCGP added that GPs have an essential role in domestic homicide reviews – by involving their patients, sharing their understanding, information and learning. They pointed out that this can help improve the response across the local as well as national health and care systems.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker commented: “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.”

PHE has also launched a new toolkit to help businesses to support people who are victims of abuse. The DH will be publishing further resources over the next two weeks, but said that many resources are already available for health professionals and students dealing with domestic violence:

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