General practice wide adaptations to support patients affected by DVA during the COVID-19 pandemic: a rapid qualitative study
Dixon S., De Simoni A., Szilassy E., Emsley E., Wileman V., Feder G., Downes L., Barbosa EC., Panovska-Griffiths J., Griffiths C., Dowrick A.
Background: Reporting of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) increased globally during the pandemic. General Practice has a central role in identifying and supporting those affected by DVA. Pandemic associated changes in UK primary care included remote initial contacts with primary care and predominantly remote consulting. This paper explores general practice’s adaptation to DVA care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Remote semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone with staff from six localities in England and Wales where the Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) primary care DVA programme is commissioned. We conducted interviews between April 2021 and February 2022 with three practice managers, three reception and administrative staff, eight general practice clinicians and seven specialist DVA staff. Patient and public involvement and engagement (PPI&E) advisers with lived experience of DVA guided the project. Together we developed recommendations for primary care teams based on our findings. Results: We present our findings within four themes, representing primary care adaptations in delivering DVA care: 1. Making general practice accessible for DVA care: staff adapted telephone triaging processes for appointments and promoted availability of DVA support online. 2. General practice team-working to identify DVA: practices developed new approaches of collaboration, including whole team adaptations to information processing and communication 3. Adapting to remote consultations about DVA: teams were required to adapt to challenges including concerns about safety, privacy, and developing trust remotely. 4. Experiences of onward referrals for specialist DVA support: support from specialist services was effective and largely unchanged during the pandemic. Conclusions: Disruption caused by pandemic restrictions revealed how team dynamics and interactions before, during and after clinical consultations contribute to identifying and supporting patients experiencing DVA. Remote assessment complicates access to and delivery of DVA care. This has implications for all primary and secondary care settings, within the NHS and internationally, which are vital to consider in both practice and policy.