IRIS is a national project which works with GPs to combat domestic abuse and make the most of their opportunities to reach vulnerable victims. The project offers training and advice for GPs and practice staff on how to recognise and enquire about domestic abuse, and a dedicated support service for victims identified.
The NHS spends more time dealing with the impact of domestic abuse than almost any other agency. Doctors are often the first point of contact for victims struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-harm, and use of alcohol and drugs due to their experiences of violence. However GPs don’t often recognise domestic abuse: a survey of 1000 women in GPs waiting rooms found that whilst 41% had experienced physical abuse and 74% had experienced controlling behaviour from a partner, only 15% had any reference to domestic abuse in their medical history.
Black Country Women’s Aid have been commissioned by Walsall CCG and Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG to deliver the IRIS project to GP surgeries across Walsall and Sandwell. Over the past year our IRIS teams have worked closely with practice staff to reach and support vulnerable victims.
In the first year of the Walsall IRIS project, Walsall GPs identified and referred 95 patients (92 women and 3 men) into BCWA support. This is a huge increase: in the previous year only 4 referrals had been made. The difference that training and advice can make is clear. GPs are more able to recognise the signs that someone is struggling with abuse, are comfortable to talk about the issue, and know how to access support for them.
Some of the women supported by our team told us what IRIS has meant to them:
“Thank you for your support. Just having someone to say you’re doing well makes the world of difference when everything is against me. Thank you.”
“I feel like I was a bird, trapped in a cage not knowing that I can fly. Now I know I can fly.”
“I feel as though you are a lifeline. It’s nice to know there is someone on my side.”
GPs in Sandwell and Walsall can find out more or sign up for IRIS by contacting our IRIS teams: