To provide you with the best experience on this website, cookies are used. By using the site it's assumed that you're happy with our use of cookies. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. More info on cookies.
Allow cookies

GPs need better training to help children affected by domestic violence

Friday, 14th October 2016

Although doctors and nurses are becoming more aware of patients experiencing domestic violence, the needs of children are often ignored, according to new research published today that reveals a lack of training about how to identify and support children exposed to domestic violence.

Experts from the universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire say better training, coupled with improved information-sharing between agencies, could greatly improve outcomes for these children.

About one in five children in the UK are exposed to domestic violence, according to the NSPCC.  Although there is considerable research-based evidence associating domestic violence with poor physical health, mental health, behavioural and educational outcomes for exposed children, GPs and nurses are not confident about how to respond to the needs of these children, the authors say.  

Writing in the journal Health and Social Care in the Community today, they highlight a lack of cohesion and coordination in the approach to domestic violence and child safeguarding.  Their study draws attention to general practice clinicians’ insufficient understanding of multi-agency work, a limited competence in gauging thresholds for child protection referral to children’s services and little understanding of outcomes for children. While prioritising children’s safety, GP clinicians are more inclined to engage directly with abusive parents than with affected children.

Lead author Dr Eszter Szilassy, from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care, in the School of Social and Community Medicine said: “Our research found that, while GPs are fully aware of their child safeguarding responsibilities, they are uncertain about best practice at the interface between child safeguarding and domestic violence. The lack of relevant training contributes to failures to translate child safeguarding knowledge into safe and effective domestic violence related practice strategies.”

The paper highlights that “the poor engagement of general practice clinicians with domestic violence training and the lack of relevant training content within child safeguarding training, is currently a major gap for general practice, leading to uncertainty and resulting in missed opportunities to support victims and their children”.

The authors describe the development of an evidence-based training intervention on domestic violence and child safeguarding for general practice teams, called RESPONDS (Researching Education to Strengthen Primary care ON Domestic violence and Safeguarding).  This training was developed to encourage general practice clinicians to overcome barriers and engage more extensively with adults experiencing abuse, as well as responding directly to the needs of children.

The mixed-method paper reports key research findings and their implications for practice and policy.  If adopted, the authors’ recommendations could lead to greater support for children via more relevant training and support for the GPs and nurses assigned to them.

Nicky Stanley, Professor of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire, noted: “The research found that GPs were more ready to engage with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence than to talk directly to children or young people about this issue. They need to improve their confidence and skills in relation to this, since children are also their patients.”

Dr Szilassy and colleagues argue that clinicians need more focused training to equip them with the skills and confidence to respond safely and effectively to adult victims and perpetrators, and vitally, in talking directly with children experiencing domestic violence. They recommend that such training is reinforced by supportive practice environments, improved systems of interagency collaboration, appropriate and effective documenting and improved information-sharing systems and policies.

The authors hope that the development and piloting of their evidence-based training will be a crucial first step towards strengthening the response to all family members experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence and their children.

The paper: Making the links between domestic violence and child safeguarding: An evidence-based pilot training for general practice. Health and Social Care in the Community, by Eszter Szilassy et al is available at

RSS feeds


March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

September 2009

August 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009

March 2009

February 2009

December 2008

June 2008

May 2008

Contact Us

For more information, practical advice and support, call Marketing Lancashire on:

01772 426450.