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A year ago SafeLives’ launched our report A Cry for Health which argued that every hospital in the UK should host an Idva service. The findings reflected four years of research into hospital-based Idvas in five English hospitals who had located specialist domestic abuse services in their A&E and Maternity units.

We know that only one in five victims of domestic abuse call the police which is why identifying them earlier in health settings is so important. Our research found that hospital Idvas were supporting victims on average six months earlier compared to Idvas in community settings, and in the year before the hospital Idva service started, 56% of hospital victims had accessed A&E because of the abuse, compared with only 16% of victims who accessed a community service. These represent missed opportunities to intervene, which is particularly important for victims who do not have any contact with other agencies.

Hospital-based Idvas are also very important for safeguarding children. We know that around 30% of domestic abuse begins during pregnancy, while 40–60% of women experiencing domestic abuse are abused during pregnancy. NHS staff are under a duty to safeguard children at risk of harm and a hospital Idva service is well placed to help with identification, referrals and support, to enable hospitals to fulfil their duties, not least by ensuring mothers at risk are identified early on.

Since the launch of the research last year, we have been pushing the Department of Health and other health agencies to support the roll-out of more hospital Idva services. Our latest findings from our Practitioner’s Survey suggest that around 40 hospitals host or have strong links to an Idva service. But given that there are around 160 registered acute NHS providers in England, that means 75% of providers are without a dedicated specialist domestic abuse resource.

As part of continuing to make the case for health-based links with domestic abuse specialists, SafeLives successfully bid for money from the Tampon Tax fund in consortium with Standing Together, IRISi, AVA, Imkaan and the University of Bristol to pilot a Pathfinder Project which brings together domestic abuse systems leaders to establish comprehensive health practice in relation to domestic abuse in acute hospital trusts, mental health trusts and community based IRIS programmes in GP practices. We’re looking forward to hearing about the successful Pathfinder areas in the next few weeks!

We are also excited to have recently provided training to King’s College medical undergraduates on domestic abuse, ensuring that the next generation of health staff have a grounded understanding of coercive and controlling behaviours and how to best support domestic abuse survivors and their children in a health-setting. We will be looking to work closely with other medical schools in 2018 so do get in touch if you have links with universities who might be interested!

Finally, we will be pushing hard for the crucial involvement of health in identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse in the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. Quite rightly, domestic abuse has been identified as a public health epidemic and the sooner we can see real commitment from all part of the health service, both NHS and private providers, the better we will be able to reach victims and signpost them to the specialist support they need to get safe.

We hope you enjoy our #16Days campaign to increase the focus of health on domestic abuse and do get in touch if you want to work with us further.

Jess Asato is Public Affairs Manager at SafeLives. She can be contacted at Jessica.asato@safelives.org.uk


Please would you consider making a regular gift of £10 a month, or whatever you can afford to help us call for specialist domestic abuse teams in every hospital in the country? You can donate online here or for a one-off £10 donation, text SAFELIVES to 70085. Thank you.