Essex: Health professionals urged to be aware of telltale signs of domestic violence
15:55 17 January 2014
Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner is calling on health professionals to lend their expertise in tackling the problem of domestic violence in the county.
Nick Alston wants to encourage dentists, optometrists and pharmacists, as well as GPs, to be aware of some of the telltale signs of domestic abuse and to offer informal advice and support where appropriate.
He says new ideas are required to tackle the problem, with Essex Police currently receiving around 70 calls a day relating to domestic violence.
During the height of last summer the force was getting more than 100 calls each day. Incidents of actual crimes relating to domestic violence have risen for the past three years from 7,437 in 2010/11 to 8,676 in 2012/13.
Mr Alston said he would like health professionals to be more confident in dealing with potential victims and to “signpost” them to where they can get help. He added: “Early intervention is necessary to stop violence escalating and to ease the burden on services.
“We need to identify potential victims of domestic violence as early as possible and in a lot of cases they may have a range of related issues such a stress.
“I’ve talked to a woman who has lost teeth and another who was blinded in one eye - and they often make up stories. In another instance, a woman with broken ribs told her doctor she had fallen over on a slippery kitchen floor.”
Mr Alston said he had received a “fantastic response” from NHS England’s area team director for Essex, Andrew Pike about the idea. He added that he envisaged health professionals giving informal advice about support groups and woman’s organisations, rather than reporting cases to the police.
“People will not go to the police and in some cases it will scare people away. Domestic violence is a complex issue and in many cases people are trying to keep a family together.”
Anne Naylor, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing at Essex County Council, agreed that sensitivity was required when dealing with issues of domestic abuse.
She said: “The issue is a tough nut to crack. If a dentist sees someone with cracked teeth and starts talking about the police then people are likely to scarper.
“A lot of management needs to be done about how this is approached but domestic violence is a growing problem and we need to think about it again.
“We have to be sensitive in terms of sharing information between agencies or how we are approaching people or we’ll be back to the 1920s when people who had certain problems thought it best not to go to the doctors.”
A spokesperson for NHS England in Essex said: “We would always encourage any victims of domestic abuse in Essex to contact their GP as early as possible, in order to access the health and wellbeing services they need.”