IRIS is a nationally-recognised programme which integrates domestic abuse support within primary care services, helping vulnerable people in need to get support where they feel safe. Specialist IRIS advocate-educators train GPs and surgery staff to recognize warning signs someone is experiencing abuse, and offer one-to-one support to victims. Black Country Women’s Aid have offered the … Continued
IRIS is a nationally-recognised programme which integrates domestic abuse support within primary care services, helping vulnerable people in need to get support where they feel safe. Specialist IRIS advocate-educators train GPs and surgery staff to recognize warning signs someone is experiencing abuse, and offer one-to-one support to victims.
Black Country Women’s Aid have offered the IRIS programme since 2015 in Sandwell, expanding to Dudley in 2017 and Walsall in 2018. In October 2022, IRIS was implemented in Wolverhampton in partnership with Black Country Integrated Care Board, which means that it’s now running across the whole Black Country area with one main goal: to enable local general practices to better identify and refer women being affected by domestic abuse to specialist support.
The launch is being celebrated by the national IRISi team who established IRIS and help to implement it in local areas across the UK, as well as local healthcare professionals, who are happy to see the intervention expanding its reach, benefiting more and more people. Commissioner Marie Kelly, Designated Nurse for Adult Safeguarding for Black Country Integrated Care Board, said:
“As it was previously commissioned in 3 of the 4 Black Country areas, we had developed professional relationships with regional and national leads within IRISi which aided discussions. Since IRIS was implemented in Sandwell, six years ago, and then rolled out across Walsall and Dudley, the ICB has seen tangible outcomes for survivors of domestic abuse accessing primary care services. There are 6 PCNs in Wolverhampton, which will be offered IRIS training and support.”
IRIS offers a holistic and sustainable approach for women who are affected by domestic abuse
The IRIS Programme is a holistic intervention based on a two-step approach: firstly, it provides ongoing training and support to clinicians and admin staff, so they become better prepared to identify the signs of domestic abuse among patients; secondly, by embedding an AE (advocate educator) within the general practice setting, the intervention provides an essential direct referral to a named specialist.
For Carol Kelly, Regional Domestic Abuse Operational Manager at Black Country Women’s Aid, the AE role is integral for the success of IRIS, as it cements the link between awareness raising in Primary Care settings and the actual intervention needed for the empowerment of patient populations who have experienced domestic abuse and who need that support. She explained:
“AE training helps GP staff to appreciate the impact of prolonged stress and/or experience of trauma on the body from living with domestic abuse – both current and historic. This also informs them of best practice methods of enabling patients to talk about their experience and also how they can respond effectively to a disclosure and ensure local effective support is made available.”
“AE support enhances the medical interventions which are taking place, or which are being awaited. Often the intervention of regular scheduled emotional support from the AE can retain stability for the patient who is on a lengthy waiting list for counseling and ’talking therapy’. The support of the AE reduces the need for GP appointments and prescriptions. The trauma-informed support of the AE can offer appropriate information, advice, and guidance which helps the patient understand the symptoms they are experiencing and reduce the need for GP appointment time. The local AE is the available expert to help all surgery staff develop their expertise and knowledge of DA.
“I am so grateful for everything you have done for me, I know I would not have got through this without your support and advice”
“I felt so comfortable talking with you and it was good to have someone that understood what I was going through”