How can general practices respond to family violence? New video proves insight

  16 May 2022  NWMPHN   

Everyone who works in general practice – including doctors, nurses, managers and receptionists – can play a part in helping end family violence, a new video shows. 

In Australia, family violence is recognised as the leading contributor to ill health for women. On average one woman is killed by her current or former partner every week, and a child is killed by a parent on average every two weeks. 

It is estimated that on average a full time GP in a busy suburban practice will see up to 5 women who are victims of family violence every week. However, not all these patients disclose their situation – and not all staff members will know how to respond if they do. 

Studies indicate that women were 2 times more likely to disclose family violence if asked by their GP. Although the majority of female patients attending general practices state they would not object to being asked about abuse, only a minority are actually asked. 

To improve knowledge and confidence of general practice team members in responding to family violence, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN), in conjunction with the University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre, has delivered comprehensive training sessions and quality improvement workshops as part of its Primary Care Pathways to Safety Project. 

The whole-team approach helps all general practice staff respond appropriately to patients disclosing that they are subject to violence. It also introduces strategies for GPs and nurses to invite disclosure during appointments and routine health screenings, for example mental health plans, antenatal and postnatal checks. 

Responses range from handing over information on resources, to providing safety planning and routes into specialised crisis services. 

To date the family violence project has been undertaken by 179 team members from 26 practices in the region, and reactions from doctors, nurses, practice managers and receptionists have been uniformly enthusiastic.  

One of the practices to complete the training and incorporate it into everyday routines was IPC Health in Deer Park. 

Recently, staff at the bustling clinic found time in their schedules to work with NWMPHN to create a short video discussing how the training has changed their approach to supporting patients who are subject to family violence. 

Watch this video to learn about your peers’ experience with the project. Find a range of family violence training options, quality improvement ideas and local family violence services and resources for your practice here. 

A one-minute version is available here.