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NICE: Nurses should help recognise domestic abuse

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has called for a wider understanding in health and social care in how to help people experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

The new guidance aims to help identify, prevent and reduce domestic violence and abuse. It outlines how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively to domestic violence and abuse.

Types of domestic abuse include: 

 - Physical abuse.

 - Threats.

 - Emotional abuse. 

 - Sexual assault.

 - Stalking.

Domestic violence and abuse can affect anyone, both women and men regardless of their age or where they are from. 

Each year at least 1.2 million women and 784,000 men experience domestic violence and abuse in England and Wales, with one in three women and nearly one in five men experiencing it at some point in their lives. 

But NICE believes these figures are likely to underestimate the problem, because all types of domestic violence and abuse are under-reported in health and social research, to the police and other services. 

Recommendations from the new guidance include:

 - Information in waiting areas and other suitable places about the support on offer for those affected by domestic violence and abuse should be clearly displayed. This includes contact details of relevant local and national helplines. It could also include information for groups who may find it more difficult to disclose that they are experiencing violence and abuse.

 - Frontline staff in all services should be trained to recognise the indicators of domestic violence and abuse and ask relevant questions to help people disclose their past or current experiences of such violence or abuse. The enquiry 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. 

 - People's safety should be prioritised and regularly assessed to determine what type of service someone needs - immediately and in the longer term.

 - Those responsible for safeguarding children, and commissioners and providers of specialist services for children and young people affected by domestic violence and abuse should address the emotional, psychological and physical harms arising from a child or young person being affected by domestic violence and abuse, as well as their safety. This includes the wider educational, behavioural and social effects.

Specific training should be provided for health and social care professionals in how to respond to domestic violence and abuse.

Professor Gene Feder, professor of Primary Health Care at the University of Bristol and chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: “GPs and their teams see families over long periods of time. We need to wake up to the high prevalence of domestic abuse and its impact on our patients. 

"The doctors and nurses in general practice need training: to ask safely about abuse, about how to respond effectively, and about how to help by encouraging patients to go to local specialist domestic violence services.  Those services are an essential part of an effective health and social care response to domestic violence and abuse.”

The full guidance is available on the NICE website