Improving the health response to domestic abuse in Blackpool

The IRIS model is a domestic abuse training, support and referral programme for GP practices. The practices are given training and referral pathways to specialist domestic abuse agencies. It is a model of best practice and has been found to be effective in increasing referrals to domestic abuse agencies from trained GP surgeries. In this blog, Clare, an IRIS Advocate Educator (AE), reflects on the three months since the IRIS programme launched in Blackpool after several months of planning with the Pathfinder team, colleagues in health, the local authority and specialist VAWG sector.

28th May 2019 Blackpool began its IRIS training.

Following the 3 days training from Mel and Hazel from IRISi, we were raring to go and we went live on Monday 3rd June 2019!

Since then we have been raising awareness, letting people know who we are and promoting the IRIS model to our 18 practices, with the aim of improving GPs’ response to domestic abuse for the 165,000 residents of Blackpool.

With an abundance of safeguarding experience and passion behind us we were off!

By the end of the first four weeks, 11 practices had signed up to the IRIS model. By week eight, 16 practices had signed up and 14 training sessions had been delivered!

With this, the referrals started to come in.

The training and the IRIS model were very well received, and we were overwhelmed by the openness and willingness of the Blackpool practices to embrace this new offer.

Feedback we received included:

  • Excellent service, excellent delivery of training, approachable staff
  • Very useful, informative and a much needed service, great job
  • I hope this service continue and doesn’t have funding pulled in the future. There is a big need for support for these people

We are now on week 15. 23 training sessions have been delivered; over 150 clinicians and practice staff have been trained; 19 direct referrals have been made and 13 women are currently receiving advocacy support from the Advocate Educator (AE).

Working in the same office as our clinical lead and being a part of the Safeguarding Team in has been fantastic and possibly a key to our success so far.

We have been looking at ways of to ensure our whole workforce and other key stakeholders are aware of the project. So far, we have presented at a Fylde Coast Women’s Aid conference, a health visiting forum, the midwifery forum and the district nursing forum.

Dates have been set to inform all immediate response police officers about the service so they can inform victims of pathways of support via their general practices.

Case Study: 

An elderly woman had presented at her GP practice a significant number of times for various medical reasons. She had also mentioned having issues in her relationship.

Her GP was trained by the IRIS team and within days of being trained the GP was able to recognise the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse.  She made a referral into the local IRIS service. This patient is now receiving support at the surgery from the Advocate Educator.

I just wanted to say thank you so much.  It sounds stupid but you have helped me a lot, being able to talk to someone who understands. Today was brave for me. Being able to face how I am feeling, so a massive thanks.


We have visited IRIS sites in Bolton and Manchester and have found this hugely helpful; they were welcoming and approachable. The national IRIS networking event run by IRISi in Birmingham was also extremely beneficial to building relationships with our closest IRIS sites.

A successful start.  Here’s to the next 6 months.

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