For domestic abuse services, a culture of sharing between housing and health professionals is key

I can’t believe it’s been one year since we started our GP Champion Project in Somerset. It’s been a really productive year full of success, which has of course included being the proud winner of the Health and Wellbeing category in the Community Impact Awards!

Natalie Giles is the Public Health Lead for the Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS), run by Knightstone Housing

Natalie Giles is the Public Health Lead for the Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS), run by Knightstone Housing

11 August 2016

A year in and I’ve delivered training to staff based at 40 GP surgeries across Somerset. I’ve helped GPs, receptionists, practice managers and nurses to understand and identify domestic abuse, and refer patients to our service for specialist support. I’ve also identified and trained 35 champions – surgery staff who’ve agreed to become specialists in recognising abuse, and to act as a constant link between the surgery and SIDAS.

Compared to just two calls to the service from GP surgeries recorded in 2014, we’ve had over 63 calls, including direct referrals from surgery staff and patients since June 2015. This huge increase tells us that our two-pronged approach of educating GP surgeries about domestic abuse and raising awareness of our service, is working. Surgeries are now starting to contact me directly to ask for training, thanks to positive word of mouth from surgeries I’ve already visited. We’ve even had our first referral from a dentist recently. That’s prompted us to start looking at how we might work with dentists in the future.

A particular highlight for me is the strong and successful link that’s been created between SIDAS and Frome Medical Practice over the past year. My experience there reflects the fantastic buy-in we’ve had from all GP surgeries we’ve worked with across Somerset. Growing interest and recognition of the need to better understand domestic abuse in the region has now resulted in me launching a new ongoing, day-long training programme visiting each district in Somerset on a rolling basis.

Winning the Community Impact Awards Health and Wellbeing category last year was a really proud moment for us. I think it was a fantastic way of highlighting the importance of projects like ours, what we’re doing to close the gap between housing and health, and the positive impact this has on vulnerable people in our communities. We were invited to speak about the project at the joint National Housing Federation and Sitra conference, ‘Communities: At the heart of healthy homes’ in March this year (download my presentation slides here). This gave us a national platform to share our approach with other housing providers and health professionals. I really hope it gave people some food for thought about the types of models they could adopt to improve local health partnerships where they are. Certainly for domestic abuse services, a culture of integration and sharing between housing and health professionals is key. It’s this way of working that has a truly positive effect on the lives of men, women and children affected by domestic abuse, in making sure they receive the help and support they really need.

 


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The Community Impact Awards offer an opportunity to showcase some of the innovative ways in which housing associations are improving lives.

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