Dr Alex Sohal, joint clinical champion for domestic violence with Professor Gene Feder, was speaking as the RCGP launched a new e-learning module on the subject written by Oxford GP Dr Fiona Duxbury. She said the issue was so important in primary care that GPs and their teams would also need face-to-face training.
‘All GPs need to be trained in this area. Domestic violence is an issue for the whole practice team, which needs to consider practical issues, such as how to record related data, regular practice meetings to discuss cases and building links to local specialised services.
‘E-learning is not a substitute for face-to-face expert training. Whole practice training on domestic violence and safeguarding children is recommended at least every three years for all NHS staff,’ Dr Sohal explained.
Dr Sohal said a quarter of women experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
‘GPs should get involved because domestic violence is an important public health and clinical issue due to its high prevalence, health impact and hidden aetiological role in many common conditions seen in primary care.’
Dr Sohal said she had experienced a spectrum of responses from practices on the importance of the issue.
‘This ranges from GPs who are very interested in domestic violence, seeing it as a significant issue that impacts on the health of their patients, to GPs who insist that it is not a problem at their practice, even when experiences at adjacent practices contradict this view,’ she said.
The RCGP online course takes GPs through a series of exercises in recognising violence, sensitive ways of broaching the subject, and the different options available for addressing these cases.