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Healthcare staff should identify domestic abuse

Health and social care staff should make more effort to identify and prevent domestic violence, NICE guidelines suggest. 

Draft guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that staff should be trained to ask relevant questions when there is evidence of domestic violence. 

According to NICE, staff assumptions about people's belief and values should not stop them responding to domestic violence. 

Strategies should be introduced to overcome any barriers. Confidential interpretation services should be offered so that healthcare professionals do not have to rely on friends and family members - who could be hiding evidence of the abuse. 

Gene Feder, professor of primary health care at the University of Bristol and chair of the group which developed the draft guidance said: “Domestic violence and abuse poses a major challenge to public health, social care and health care services, yet often goes unrecognised by professionals in those sectors. 

“Health and social care professionals can find it difficult to acknowledge and act on the signs of domestic violence and abuse, and may be uncertain about safe and effective responses to victims and perpetrators.” 

Around 1.2 million women and 784,000 men aged 16-59 in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in 2010/11. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, one of the stakeholders on the guidance said: “Nearly two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in the UK, and many more experience abuse. We know from years of experience, research and statistical data that domestic violence has a much greater impact on women.”

The full guidance is available on the NICE website