A PIONEERING project aimed at bridging the gap between family doctors and domestic abuse charities is now underway – thanks to a £50,000 grant.
South Tyneside Abuse Referral Team (START) run by anti-abuse charity Options now has a link worker to work with doctors across the borough.
The role, taken on by Melissa Currier, has been made possible with funding from Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
For the past three weeks Ms Currier has been visiting GPs in South Tyneside to let them know of the new project and the training on offer to help surgery staff look out for patients who are experiencing abuse, and to offer them guidance and signposting to the services which can support them.
Information will also be given on where GPs can signpost those who are the perpetrator.
Ms Currier said: “I’ve only been in the role for three weeks but already it is receiving a positive response from the GP surgeries I’ve been out to.
“Eventually, as well as delivering training to GPs, I will also be doing a drop-in session at various practices.
“There could be a lot of reasons why people who are victims of abuse are not being signposted following a visit to their GPs. It could be they don’t make it known or the GP is not sure how to ask the question which will enable the victim to say they are being abused.
“We have found that a lot of victims of abuse are waiting for someone to ask them, and we are wanting to help the GPs to ask that question, and to also offer a place they can refer their patients who are suffering domestic abuse.”
The project, believed to be the first of its kind, has been welcomed by Hazel Hedley, of Impact Family Services, where the service will be based.
She said: “It is a vital role that has been created which will help to bridge the gap between GPs and domestic abuse support services that can help those who present with issues relating to domestic abuse.
“This is a pioneering project and hopefully it will go on to be rolled out across other local authority areas.”
Support will include advice for those who are suffering at the hands of their abusive partners but may not be ready to leave, what their options are, help with legal advice, the various types of orders which are available as well as sign post them to the different types of programmes which are offered by Impact Family Services.
Meanwhile, the role will also include the domestic abuse GP link worker developing and delivering on-going training and support to health care professionals working in GP practices, develop an agreed “care-pathway” for the service as well as “establish and facilitate” regular specialist domestic violence and abuse drop-in clinics in a number of community health settings.
Options Co-ordinator Julie Robinson, said “This is a very exciting initiative that has been welcomed by GPs, practice nurses and managers.
“I am proud that Impact Family Services has been chosen as the host for this unique project and I’m sure it will be a huge success.
“ This new project will hopefully give victims of domestic abuse additional support when visiting their GP.
“As chair of the Domestic Violence Forum I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved so far, and look forward to continuing to work with partner agencies to develop and sustain this post”.
The project is being delivered with the support of South Tyneside Council , South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), local GPs and voluntary and community agencies
For information on Options and the GP referral service 456 7577.