Domestic and Family Violence project makes a lasting impact

Aug 25, 2022

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Primary care providers play a critical role in supporting people who are experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV). As often the first point of professional contact, they can recognise warning signs and improve patient outcomes. It is estimated that full-time GPs see up to five women per week who have experienced some form of DFV – physical, emotional, sexual – in the past 12 months.[i]

The pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in the rate of domestic and family violence (DFV), the complexity of cases, and additional barriers for victims to access both informal and formal support.

Helping frontline care teams support DFV victims

Brisbane North PHN delivered a Domestic and Family Violence project from September 2021 – May 2022, to respond to the increase in DFV cases, the escalation of violence, and service gaps. The project was designed to enhance the ability of frontline primary care teams to:

  • recognise signs of abuse and violence
  • respond empathetically
  • refer patients to specialist services.

It also aimed to improve referral pathways between primary care and DFV specialist providers. To achieve these objectives, the project team mapped the available resources in the region, developed a quality improvement (QI) toolkit, delivered training, and launched an awareness campaign to support general practices to take action against violence.

A whole-of-practice approach to training

Brisbane North PHN delivered free-of-charge training to 10 primary care providers to support a ‘trauma-sensitive care’ response for patients experiencing DFV. The training was designed by health professionals, people with lived experience, and DFV specialists, and used the QI toolkit as a key resource.

Rather than focusing solely on the health professional who treats the patient, the project took a holistic, wrap around approach. Training was delivered for all members of a healthcare team, with education and upskilling specific to each role. Not only did this help alleviate the pressures on GPs and Practice Nurses, but it allowed practices to work collaboratively and make sustainable changes.

Deepening understanding and improving health pathways

The training delivered three key outcomes.

Firstly, by implementing an engaging and successful training program, primary care providers had more confidence and a greater understanding of DFV:

  • 124 people participated in the project, including GPs, practice nurses, practice managers, and reception staff
  • 100 per cent of respondents said they were likely or very likely to recommend the DFV training to other primary care providers.
  • Respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their knowledge and confidence had improved in recognising signs of DFV (88 per cent), responding to these signs, (88 per cent) and referring a patient (93 per cent).

Secondly, participants increased their knowledge of specialist community and DFV service providers in the region, with a 478 per cent increase in the use of HealthPathways across the duration of the project.

Finally, primary care providers were more aware of their role in supporting patients experiencing DFV. This was complemented by an awareness campaign in May 2022, which coincided with Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. The campaign was designed to educate GPs on their role in managing DFV in patients and encourage patients to see a doctor as a safe space. The awareness posters reached an audience of over 300,000 people in the North Brisbane and Moreton Bay area. In addition, all practices in the region now have access to comprehensive information, resources, and the QI toolkit.

What next?

The Primary Care team at Brisbane North PHN has access to resources and can distribute these to practices on request.

Download the Brisbane North PHN quality improvement (QI) toolkit for domestic and family violence

For more information, please email practicesupport@brisbanenorthphn.org.au.

[i]Review the updated RACGP White Book

The White Book 5th Edition: Abuse and Violence – Working with our patients in general practice

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