News story

How GPs can help in ending violence against women

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Department of Health, PHE and RCGP support the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The role GPs can play in combating domestic violence has been highlighted by the Department of Health, Public Health England and the Royal College of General Practitioners in support of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. GPs speak to women and families over a long period of time which puts them in unique a position to empower women to seek help.

About 1.2 million women experienced domestic abuse in the last year in England and Wales, and 76 women were killed by their current or former partner. Domestic violence is estimated to cost £15.7 billion in both human and economic terms, so even marginally effective interventions are cost effective.

GPs also have an essential role to play in the domestic homicide reviews by involving their patients, sharing their understanding, information and learning. This can help improve the response across the health and care system locally, as well as nationally.

PHE has announced a new toolkit to help businesses support people experiencing domestic violence.. This toolkit is part of the ‘16 days of action’ campaign against domestic violence that runs from 25 November to 11 December.

Other resources for health professionals and students dealing with domestic violence are also available:

More resources will be published over the next 16 days.

Jane Ellison, Minister for Public Health, said:

Any form of violence or abuse - physical, emotional, psychological or sexual - should not be tolerated. We know that 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.

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 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.