GPs displayed a 'lack of professional curiosity' about patients and domestic violence, study finds

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A study by domestic violence charity Standing Together has found a lack of co-ordinated approach in preventing murders linked to domestic violence and highlighted missed opportunities when perpetrators or victims visited their GP.

According to the new report, 332 women and 78 men were killed by their partner or ex-partner between March 2012 and March 2015. Each of these deaths requires a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR), which is supposed to identify lessons to be learned and possible prevention methods for future incidents by bringing together multiple agencies involved.

Standing Together's study, performed by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, analysed 32 DHRs to identify common themes. Of these, 92% of the perpetrators were a partner or ex-partner of the victim.

Standing Together claims GPs are "well placed to identify victims of domestic violence through connected health needs including for example, injury, depression and substance misuse". They are also likely to come into contact with perpetrators, so appropriate training in identification and intervention or referral is essential.

(monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock)
(monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock)

However, the report highlighted missed opportunities for inquiry with the victims in over half of the 32 cases reviewed, saying "most frequently observed was a lack of professional curiosity about relationships with partners/children's fathers, with reports suggesting that exploration of the circumstances of the victim's life could have led to discussions about IPV [intimate partner violence]".

It also found that in six of the 32 cases studied, GPs missed opportunities to inquire with the perpetrators about IPV. This included treatment for injuries after violent altercations, mental health issues and substance abuse among other presenting issues.

The report also raised questions about the adequacy of domestic violence training for primary care staff and continuity of care to victims and perpetrators who share the same GP practice.