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Royal Colleges, charities and health bodies join forces to push for better support for those suffering domestic abuse

The RCGP along with domestic abuse charity Safe Lives has written to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock calling for more support for health and care professionals to identify signs of domestic abuse, and signpost adult and child victims of domestic abuse to appropriate support services.

The letter notes how during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing number of domestic abuse victims and perpetrators seeking support – and that this is likely to continue as current lockdown measures are eased. It comes ahead of a meeting of the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee this week.

As well as the RCGP and Safe Lives, the letter was signed by six other Royal Colleges, the British Medical Association and 14 other domestic abuse charities and health bodies (full list of signatories below).

Commenting on the letter, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "The current lockdown situation can be challenging for anybody, but for those suffering domestic abuse, including vulnerable children, lockdown conditions can be dangerous as the intensity of the situation - whether the associated isolation or increased financial pressures - exacerbates the risk they face.

"Domestic abuse can have a significant impact on someones physical and mental health, and in the most serious cases can have tragic consequences, so GPs are concerned about safeguarding issues involving both adults and children at the moment. The Domestic Abuse Bill going through Parliament is encouraging, but there is more to be done to ensure those working in healthcare settings are equipped to deal with patients who are suffering from domestic abuse.

"The safety of a GP consultation can be an opportunity for patients suffering domestic abuse to seek help - and GPs will be on the lookout for signs. But it's important that we and our teams are properly supported to act appropriately when these situations arise so that our patients can access the support they need. This is why we've worked with Safe Lives on this letter and we hope the Secretary of State takes heed of our calls.

"It's vital that people suffering domestic abuse understand that they do not need to adhere to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions if doing so is putting them at risk. If someone is experiencing domestic abuse, in any form, or is aware of it happening to someone who cannot speak out themselves, we would urge them to seek help and support from whatever sources they find most comfortable. This could be confiding in a trusted relative, friend or healthcare professional - or using a service like The National Domestic Violence Helpline."