UK & World News
NHS Staff Should Be Trained To Spot Abuse
Doctors and nurses should be trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse, according to new guidance.
An estimated two million people experience domestic abuse in England and Wales every year - and experts believe these figures are likely to underestimate the problem.
One in three women and almost one in five men will experience it at some point in their lives.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) wants a wider understanding in health and social care to help victims.
Doctors and nurses - who come into contact with victims - are being asked to be more aware of the signs of abuse and how to deal with it.
Domestic abuse laywer Rachel Horman told Sky News she thought the new guidelines will "make a difference".
"People in health centres and hospitals are the only people really that get access to victims of domestic abuse and have the ability to get them on their own ... because they are often accompanied by the perpetrators. So it makes sense that these professionals are trained and they ask the questions," she said.
"My clients will say, they've turned up at A&E with a black eye and nobody has asked them how it's happened.
"So it is very important to ask the questions and then to know where to refer them to."
She added many victims never report the abuse. On average a woman is assaulted 35 times before she goes to the police.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at Nice, said: "Everyone in society needs to understand both the extent of the problem and the damage it causes.
"It can affect anyone - particularly women and children - but also men, regardless of age, geographical location, income, relationship type, family set-up or ethnic origin.
"It causes significant short and long-term health problems, not only for the victim but for those around them, and can lead to criminal and civil sanctions."
The measures include ensuring people who use services are given maximum privacy - for example by arranging reception areas so people cannot be overheard.
Gene Feder, professor of primary health care at the University of Bristol and chair of the group which developed the Nice guidance, said: "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."
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, told Sky News: "The issue is always sufficient training to make a culture change.
"What is really important is that the training is seen through and is of high quality, and that the great intentions of these guidelines are followed through, so people really understand how to deal with what is a really sensitive situation."
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