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IRISi has recently launched its “Introduction to the IRIS programme for GPs and Primary Care Networks” guide. Click here to see it!

As a clinician, how confident do you feel in recognising and responding to Domestic Abuse during consultations? Here is why and how the IRIS programme may help you

Calls to the national domestic abuse helpline in England have increased by 61% over the past year, according to Refuge, the charity behind the service. Reflecting on a year since the start of the country’s first national lockdown, Refuge revealed 72% of those the helpline team supported were women experiencing violence and abuse, and the most common age bracket was 30-39.

At the same time, according to the Department of Health, 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and these are often a woman’s first, or only, point of contact. It means that, if you are a clinician, it’s possible that you will be the first or only professional who may have the chance to identify the signs of Domestic Violence and Abuse among your female patients.

The IRIS programme was developed over a decade ago in response to this reality, so we can provide training, support and referral pathways for general practice teams and their patients across the UK. It is very important that healthcare professionals are fully prepared to recognise and respond to the symptoms of Domestic Violence and Abuse during consultations, especially because this social disease can produce signs that are hard to see at a first sight”, explains Medina Johnson, CEO at IRISi, the social enterprise behind the IRIS programme and other similar initiatives.  

While many GPs may be aware of physical abuse, there are several different types of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) – such as psychological, emotional, financial, among many others – frequently associated with invisible wounds. That’s why the IRIS Programme is so relevant. “This programme offers, to clinicians, a simple referral pathway so that their patients can get specialist support. IRIS improves the General Practice response to DVA and essentially improves the safety, quality of life and wellbeing of survivors of DVA”, reinforces Medina Johnson, CEO at IRISi.

IRISi has recently developed an “Introduction to the IRIS programme for GPs and Primary Care Networks” guide to reach these professionals and explain why and how the IRIS programme may help them. Click here to see it in full.

Here are 3 information you will also find in the document!

1)    What exactly is IRIS?

IRIS is a specialist domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training, support and referral programme for general practices that has been positively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. It is a partnership between health and the specialist DVA sector.

IRIS provides in-house DVA training for general practice teams and a named advocate to whom patients can be referred for support. Between 2010 and March 2020, IRIS programmes have received 20,544 referrals and fully trained an estimated 1036 general practices across 48 localities nationwide.

IRIS programmes are exclusively managed and coordinated by IRISi, a social enterprise working to promote and improve healthcare response to gender based violence.

2) How does IRIS work?

The model rests on one full-time advocate educator working with a patient population of up to 200,000 (usually around 25 practices). The Advocate Educator is a specialist DVA worker who is linked to the practices and based in a local specialist DVA service.

The advocate educator works in partnership with a local Clinical Lead to engage with practices and co-deliver training. As well as providing training, the advocate educator acts as an ongoing consultant for practice teams and is the person to whom they directly refer patients for expert advocacy.

Practices also receive in house training for the whole practice team, a named contact for patient referrals, and ongoing support and consultancy.

3) How to support IRIS implementation in your area

We know that general practice teams see the need for health based DVA work first-hand and want to provide the best service for their patients. If you would like to see the IRIS programme running in your area, please get in touch with us. You can help us to implement the programme locally by:

  • Getting in touch with your practice PCN/Cluster lead or PCN/Cluster Clinical Director/Lead;
  • Contacting the named GP for safeguarding in your CCG/Health Board;
  • Sharing details of the IRIS programme with your local specialist domestic abuse service.

The IRIS programme is designed to be implemented across a number of practices. Usually, we recommend commissioning IRIS across no fewer than 12 practices. IRIS may be commissioned across a group of PCNs in an area, a number of practices in an area or a whole local authority/CCG area depending on local arrangements. We are always keen to support any interest in the IRIS programme and can participate in meetings or events to outline the IRIS programme’s benefits.

IRIS is usually funded and rolled out following conversations with commissioners such as the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Groups, in England), Health Boards (in Wales), the PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) or the local authority (usually either through Public Health or the Community Safety team). Specialist DVA organisations can also apply to become IRIS partners, which means that they are then supported by IRISi to seek funding for implementation in their area.

For further information and support please get in touch with us via info@irisi.org.uk.

You can also click here to see our special “Introduction to the IRIS programme for GPs and Primary Care Networks”.


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AVA is an expert, groundbreaking and independent charity working across the UK.

Their vision is a world without gender based violence and abuse. They aim to  inspire innovation and collaboration and encourage and enable direct service providers to help end gender based violence and abuse particularly against women and girls.AVA’s work is focused around those areas where they can make the best contribution to ending violence and abuse. They do this by making sure that survivors get the help and support they need in the here and now, through providing innovative training that has a proven direct impact on the professional practice of people supporting survivors of violence and abuse

developing a range of toolkits, e-learning and other material that supports professionals to provide effective and appropriate support to survivors of violence and abuse

using our influence and networks to ensure survivors voices are heard. We work closely with AVA in many areas including the Pathfinder project



SafeLives are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually. SafeLives are members of the Pathfinder consortium.



Imkaan is a UK-based, Black feminist organisation. We are the only national second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls which are defined in policy terms as Black and ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME). The organisation holds nearly two decades of experience of working around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence.

They work at local, national and international level, and in partnership with a range of organisations, to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls. Imkaan works with it’s members to represent the expertise and perspectives of frontline, specialist and dedicated Black and minoritised women’s organisations that work to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Imkaan delivers a unique package of support which includes: quality assurance; accredited training and peer education; sustainability support to frontline Black and minoritised organisations; and facilitation of space for community engagement and development. They are a part of the Pathfinder Consortium.


The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.  It is part of Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching.

A dedicated team of researchers at the Centre work on domestic abuse projects and IRISi is a co-collaborator and partner on some of these projects including ReProvide, HERA and DRiDVA.

The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. The Health Foundation’s Exploring Social Franchising programme aims to generate a deeper understanding of the potential of social franchising models for scaling effective health and social care interventions within the NHS.

We are one of four project teams participating in the programme to develop a social franchise to enable the sustainable spread of our intervention, the IRIS Programme. We receive funding and support from the Health Foundation, including technical expertise on social franchising, and attend programme learning events. The Health Foundation has also commissioned a programme-wide evaluation to support understanding of the use of social franchising in the UK health and care system. We and our franchisees will support the evaluation through co-designing data collection requirements, providing access to data as requested, hosting site visits and attending learning events.



Standing Together Against Domestic Violence is a UK charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse. They bring local services together to keep people safe

Most public services weren’t designed with domestic abuse in mind, and they often struggle to keep people safe. Poor communication and gaps between services put survivors at risk.

STADV aim to end domestic abuse by changing the way that local services respond to it. They do this through an approach that they pioneered, called the Coordinated Community Response. The Coordinated Community Response brings services together to ensure local systems truly keep survivors safe, hold abusers to account, and prevent domestic abuse.

Their model of a coordinated local partnership to tackle and ultimately prevent domestic violence is now widely accepted as best practice. They are also a part of the Pathfinder consortium.


Spring Impact
Spring Impact
Spring Impact

Spring Impact is a not-for-profit social enterprise born out of the frustration of seeing social organisations constantly reinventing the wheel and wasting scarce resources. Spring Impact uses a combination of tested commercial and social principles and extensive practical expertise to support organisations to identify, design and implement the right social replication model to scale their social impact.

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