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Money-saving violence and abuse referral programme for GPs launches as social enterprise

by Valeria Fiore
24 November 2017

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A programme to help GPs refer domestic violence and abuse (DVA) victims has just launched as a social enterprise and will expand across the UK and globally.

IRIS provides training and support to GPs, practice nurses and other primary care clinicians to help them identify and refer women suffering from domestic abuse.

Primary care and third sector organisations specialising in DVA collaborate to deliver the training programme by linking an advocate educator from a specialist DVA service to general practices’ local clinical lead.

Since 2010, when it first became commissionable, IRIS has helped more than 8,000 women to receive specialist support through their GP.

This comes as a recent study by the University of Bristol has shown that UK medical school teaching on domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is inadequate.

Around 7.7% of women and 4.4% of men experienced DVA in the last year, according to figures by the Office for National Statistics.

The programme saves the NHS ‘£1.07 per women per year, when only NHS costs for medical attention and mental health were considered,’ according to a research published in the BMJ Open.  

That is £3,155 per practice per year, calculated per woman registered in a practice.

Originally, IRIS started as a project involving 48 practices in Hackney and Bristol from 2007 to 2010 to help GPs identify women experiencing DVA. Later, it was implemented in sexual health clinics.

More than 800 general practices have endorsed this training and are now ‘IRIS DV Aware Practices’.

IRIS Manchester’s GP clinical lead Dr Clare Ronalds said: ‘The feedback I have received from GPs who have taken part in the training and who are implementing IRIS has been overwhelmingly positive and they consistently highly recommend it to colleagues.’

DVA costs the NHS £1.7bn a year and the annual cost to the UK economy is £18 billion.

Chief executive of IRISi (the new social enterprise) and a founding member of the IRIS programme said: ‘DVA is a gendered crime and, while it affects one in four women and one in six men during their lifetime, DVA against women is more frequent and more severe with long-lasting effects that have an impact on children, other family members and friends too.’