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In a few weeks, I’m speaking at a conference on how we can better identify and support victims of domestic violence. Aimed at a range of professionals, the event explores, amongst other things, the new Nice quality standard for domestic violence, due to be published in February 2016. It’s vitally important that we bridge the gap between specialist domestic abuse professionals and health workers who come into contact with family members experiencing abuse, but perhaps aren’t sure how to respond.

Our Themis research highlights the central role that health professionals can play in identifying and referring victims of domestic abuse. Not only are these victims often hidden from other public services, like the police, they’re also more frequently from ‘hard to reach’ groups – those who are pregnant, the elderly, and people with complex needs such as mental health issues or substance misuse.

We also know that victims of domestic abuse use local health services much more than others. If you’re a health professional - whether you work in A&E, private practice or elsewhere - it’s almost certain that some of your patients are experiencing domestic abuse. That’s a daunting idea to come to terms with – that the biggest danger to your patient’s wellbeing could actually be someone at home. When confronted with the reality of abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially when resources are stretched.

Empowering health professionals

For this reason, rather than creating new demands on services, we need to deal with the unspoken issue that's already there – by empowering health professionals to ‘ask the question’ and creating clear referral routes to specialist domestic abuse services to help them/you act quickly and easily.

With this in mind, SafeLives offers a simple checklist which can help all health professionals to feel more confident at identifying and referring domestic abuse. What’s more, we’ve recently collaborated with Bristol University on the Responds project to produce free training resources for clinicians. We also provide our own top tips sheets and videos to help you get to grips with the risk assessment process.

I hope the most important message health professionals attending the event take away is that they’re not on their own. There’s a whole network of domestic abuse experts out there, ready to support them, and events like this provide the ideal opportunity to start making those links.

Identifying and supporting victims of domestic violence and improving the effectiveness of Maracs takes place on Monday 16 November at the Hallam Conference Centre in London. To get 20% off, quote the code hcuk20safe when booking.