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RCGP urges action on domestic abuse

College says all staff must know how to recognise abuse and to respond

Louise Prime

Friday, 25 May 2012

General practices should train all staff – non-clinical as well as clinical – how to recognise and respond to signs of domestic abuse, according to the RCGP’s latest guidance. Responding to domestic abuse says staff should know how to spot signs of abuse and enquire sensitively and safely, and understand the practice’s protocol for responding and the importance of confidentiality.

The College said each practice should nominate a senior person responsible for engaging with local domestic violence services, commissioning training for the practice team, establishing a simple care pathway for patients disclosing domestic abuse by identifying a local ‘designated person’ responsible for victims’ initial assessment, and ensuring that the practice’s response to disclosure always adheres to its information-sharing protocols.

The guidance, produced by the RCGP in partnership with national charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA), says that initial education about domestic abuse can be accessed through the College’s e-learning module. In addition, practice-based training for the whole practice team should be provided by a local specialist domestic abuse service.

Training should cover:

  • health markers of domestic abuse, such as when patients present with depression, anxiety, tiredness, chronic pain or non-specific symptoms
  • how to ‘ask the question’ sensitively and safely
  • implications of domestic abuse for both child protection and adult safeguarding
  • how to respond in cases of immediate and significant risk
  • how to document domestic abuse and manage patient notes safely
  • protocols of information sharing, consent and confidentiality
  • local domestic abuse response pathways for all levels of risk
  • the practice’s process for responding to disclosure of domestic abuse – an example one-page process map is included in the guidance
  • what to do when a perpetrator discloses, or is also registered with the GP.

The RCGP’s domestic violence co-champion Professor Gene Feder 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 … this guidance supports practices to respond appropriately and safely to women and men experiencing abuse.”

Diana Barran, CAADA’s chief executive, added: “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.”

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