The IRIS Programme has been introduced across each area within the region, with the final location, Wolverhampton, up and running in time for White Ribbon Day, a global awareness day for domestic abuse.
This means that GPs and staff across the Black Country now have the same consistent level of training, so they can better identify people who may be experiencing domestic abuse, talk to them about it and refer them to the right type of support.
Sally Roberts, chief nursing officer and safeguarding executive lead for NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “Home should be the safest place in the world, but sadly we know that for some people, whose lives are blighted by domestic abuse and violence, this is not the case.
“The NHS and our partners are committed to safeguarding the most vulnerable people in our community, and we have a duty to identify domestic abuse risks and take appropriate action.
“IRIS is a high-quality, holistic package of training, support and referral pathways, which will provide local GPs with an essential tool to help them spot the signs of abuse and provide the right interventions at the right time – which could potentially save lives.”
IRIS is delivered in partnership with Black Country Women’s Aid. The programme takes a two-step approach. The first is providing essential training to all clinicians and staff in the GP practice, while the second is embedding specialist advocates within the surgery who provide direct support for patients.
Recent studies into the impact of IRIS in the West Midlands have shown a significant reduction in depression and anxiety after people accessed the programme.
While domestic abuse is a serious risk all year round, incidents are known to increase during major sporting events, so it is especially timely that the final adoption of IRIS in the Black Country coincides with the opening week of the World Cup.
Ms Roberts added: “Passions and frustrations will no doubt be running high over the coming days and weeks, but it is never OK to take these out on a loved one. To anybody in the Black Country who is worried about how someone at home may react at this time, I want to say please don’t suffer in silence.
“Your GP practice offers a safe and discreet route for you to access help. Any requests for support or information will be treated in absolute confidence, so please don’t be afraid to come forward.”