Specialist domestic abuse advisors in hospitals 'help nurses support victims'

Introducing specialist domestic abuse advisors in hospitals would help nurses to better support victims, a charity says.

Introducing specialist domestic abuse advisors in hospitals would help nurses to better support victims, a charity says.

Bringing in these advisors could also help healthcare staff who are personally affected by domestic abuse.

Amanda Burston at A Cry For Health report. Picture: Mark Hakansson

A report by the charity SafeLives highlights how 2.1million people in the UK experience some form of domestic abuse each year.

It also estimates that 51,355 NHS staff are likely to have suffered domestic abuse in the past 12 months – 44,825 women, and 6,530 men.

The report, A Cry for Health, published on November 16, calls for Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (Idvas) to be introduced in every hospital in England and Wales. There are currently around 20 Idvas covering the two nations.

Support costs

A minimum of two Idvas to provide a seven-day service would cost £100,000 per NHS provider, or £15.7million in total, the report says.

SafeLives chief executive Diana Barran said: ‘If every major hospital spent £100,000, we would support 15,000 people nationally.’

Ms Barran said many nurses and other healthcare workers felt unsure about where to refer domestic abuse victims and Idvas met that need.

She added: ‘I don’t remember ever feeling this strongly about something that is so doable and possible, and would make this much difference.’

Idvas 'crucial' role

Emergency nurse Amanda Burston, who was named RCNi Nurse of the Year 2015 for introducing a domestic abuse service in an emergency department, also attended the launch of the report.

Ms Burston, who works at Royal Stoke University Hospital, said Idvas play a crucial role in building a relationship of ‘hope and optimism’ with a victim who has just disclosed domestic abuse. This encourages the victim to continue to receive treatment and support, and become a survivor, she said.

Ms Burston said health workers have a duty to speak up for victims.

‘Once you hear the victim’s voice, you have a duty of care to continue to be the voice of that victim’ she said.

Ms Burston has also seen 200 NHS workers in her trust disclose domestic abuse in the first four years of the Safer Steps service. Her work has also resulted in her trust introducing a number of measures to support staff who are domestic abuse victims, including flexible working.

The Royal College of Midwives also supports the report, which notes that 30% of domestic abuse begins in pregnancy.

RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle said: ‘Midwives not only encounter women who have been victims of domestic violence but midwifery, as a predominately female profession, are represented in the statistics for victims of abuse.’

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