These 20 NHS bodies do not have a domestic abuse policy - despite government recommendation to have one

An investigation by NationalWorld has revealed some NHS organisations do not have a policy to help staff tackle domestic abuse despite recommendations in a government-backed toolkit.

NHS trusts are advised to have a standalone domestic violence policy to help staff tackle the issue

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales says she is concerned after an investigation by NationalWorld found almost two dozen NHS bodies do not have a policy on domestic abuse.

It comes after an investigation revealed hospitals admit hundreds of women every year with injuries sustained at the hands of a partner.

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NationalWorld sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every NHS trust and health board in the UK asking whether they had a policy on domestic abuse.

While the vast majority of the 145 organisations that responded said they had a policy in place, 20 did not.

Domestic abuse policies are designed to provide healthcare workers with guidance on how to initiate questions about abuse, respond to survivors and perpetrators, record information, make risk assessments and take action.

A toolkit to help healthcare settings improve their response to domestic abuse developed through a government-funded project known as Pathfinder was published last June.

It recommended that all trusts should have a standalone policy for patients and staff experiencing or perpetrating domestic abuse, adding this was “paramount” to create an environment in which staff felt confident in identifying and responding to abuse.

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Trusts without a policy should consider this “a gap in your response to domestic abuse”, it said.

Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, said she would expect every mental health and acute hospital trust to have a domestic abuse policy “as an absolute minimum”, adding she was concerned to hear some did not.

NationalWorld’s investigation found the following trusts and health boards did not have a domestic abuse policy:

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust

Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Dumfries and Galloway NHS Board

Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic and District Hospital NHS Trust

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Shetland NHS Board

Tayside NHS Board

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Wye Valley NHS Trust

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Some of the trusts did say they had general safeguarding policies that covered domestic abuse, which the Pathfinder project recommended against.

The East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust said its staff referred to the Kent County Council domestic abuse policy, but was not clear whether this constituted an internal policy.

Of the 124 bodies that said they did have a policy, only 70 said they carried out audits to check compliance with it.

Ms Jacobs said “it is in the health system’s interests to do more” given government analysis shows domestic abuse cost health services £2.3 billion in 2016-17.

She added she would like to see a national rollout of the Pathfinder project – which was piloted at eight sites in England, bringing together acute hospital trusts, GPs, and mental health trusts – but that the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had ended its funding in April 2020.

A DHSC spokesperson said tackling domestic abuse was a key priority for government and that it and NHS England and Improvement would work to embed the best practice approaches the Pathfinder project developed across the healthcare system.