NI GPs receive support to identify and refer victims of domestic violence


General practitioners in Northern Ireland are supported to help identify and refer victims of domestic and sexual abuse to specialist services.

The Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) program is a collaboration between primary care and a number of specialist third sector organizations, including Women’s Aid, Men’s Advisory Project, Nexus NI and Victim Support NI. This is a training and support program to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in general medicine.

Previous search showed that the implementation of IRIS in 24 surgeries and 24 general practices in English led to a threefold increase in the identification of women affected by AVD and a sevenfold increase in the number of women referral to specialist AVD services.

The program is already being tested in 16 GP practices in East Belfast and the Newry and Morne area, and it is hoped that the initiative will be extended to other GP practices across Northern Ireland in the years. future.

Dr Mary Larkin, IRIS clinical manager for the Newry and Morne region, said: “Research has shown that abuse is directly associated with many physical and mental health problems in primary care, but underdiagnosed. The reason is multifactorial, but includes lack of awareness. and know where to refer victims.

“The IRIS program addresses these questions. The training helps develop knowledge of the whole practice, while the support of an advocacy educator provides one person on the practice team to refer victims, who will not only see and support the victim but who will support and continue to educate the practice team. “

Commenting on the initiative, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Unfortunately, we know that domestic violence is all too common in our communities and we must take every opportunity to help people get the support they need. Our primary care services are particularly well placed to identify and support victims of domestic and sexual abuse and I welcome the involvement of general medicine in this IRIS pilot.

“The IRIS program aims to better equip general practitioners, nurse practitioners and other primary care professionals to detect signs of domestic and sexual violence earlier and to connect victims to the right services as quickly as possible. “

Between 2020 and 2021, a total of 31,196 incidents of domestic violence were reported to police in Northern Ireland and there were 3,335 sexual offenses.

Lewis NV, Dowrick A, Sohal A, Feder G, Griffiths C. Implementing the Identification and Referral Program to Improve Patient Safety of Domestic Violence and Abuse Patients: A Mixed-Method Process Based Assessment on theory. Community health care Soc. 2019 Jul; 27 (4): e298-e312. doi: 10.1111 / hsc.12733. Published online March 13, 2019. PMID: 30868711; PMCID: PMC6617800.

Sohal AH, Feder G, Barbosa E, et al. Improving the health response to domestic violence and mistreatment in the first line: evaluation protocol by mixed method of the implementation of a complex intervention. BMC Public Health. 2018; 18 (1): 971. Posted Aug 3, 2018 doi: 10.1186 / s12889-018-5865-z.


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