The health watchdog has said that doctors and nurses should receive special training so that they are able to recognise the signs of domestic violence and be able to ask questions.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence are publishing new guidance to raise awareness for those coming into contact with domestic violence victims, and say these recommendations are a “wake-up call” to the problem, reports the BBC.
NICE says that each year at least 1.2 million women and 784,000 men in Wales and England experience domestic violence. One in three women and almost one in five men are likely to experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
Experts say that these figures underestimate the problem, and many cases go unreported to health or social services and the police.
The NICE say that research suggests domestic violence costs the UK an estimated £15.7bn a year. This is made up of “human” costs such as healthcare, criminal justice bills, costs relating to social services and refuges, alongside working days lost due to injuries.
In order to respond effectively and encourage patients to seek help from specialist services, the NICE say that doctors and nurses need more training to help them ask about abuse. The watchdog wants universities and medical schools to ensure that domestic violence training is included in their curriculums and strengthen what is already there.
The guidance says: “Health and social care service managers and professionals should ensure front-line staff in all services are trained to recognise the indicators of domestic violence and abuse and can ask relevant questions to help people disclose their past or current experiences of such violence or abuse. The inquiry should be made in private on a one-to-one basis in an environment where the person feels safe, and in a kind, sensitive manner.”
The new guidance also calls for a greater co-operation between agencies and urges health managers to “create an environment for disclosing domestic violence and abuse.”
Prof Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at the NICE, said the guidance was designed to “provide a wake-up call” to a “significant problem”.
“Domestic violence and abuse are far more common than people think. Everyone in society needs to understand both the extent of the problem and the damage it causes,” he said.
Dr Adrian Boyle, accident and emergency physician at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, said: “In emergency departments, we see a lot of patients who are experiencing domestic violence, including those who don’t feel able to tell us what is happening to them. What happens next is variable – there are places which do excellent work identifying and responding to these individuals… but equally there are places with no extra support for those who come forward. At the moment there is no requirement for staff to be trained, but what this new guidance recommends is that all staff should be trained to respond well to patients who chose to confide what is happening to them.”
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