The IRISi team and Calan DVS, our local social franchise partner, are happy to announce the expansion of the IRIS Programme across Swansea Bay. Together, we will be delivering the initiative to a greater number of local general practices starting in April 2021.
This partnership first began in February 2020 and, despite all the difficulties that came along with the pandemic, the IRIS programme was quickly adjusted to the new reality. As a result, the programme was able to increase the support offered by general practice clinicians to women affected by Domestic Violence and Abuse, as Julia Ward, the IRIS Advocate Educator in Swansea Bay, tells us:
“From my previous role working as Team Leader with CALAN DVS, I can confirm we had very low referrals being received from any clinicians across Neath. The total received in the year 2019/20 was 3. Following IRIS being rolled out in the Neath area, I can confirm the referral rate has increased dramatically and we have received 39 referrals from clinicians to date. These are 39 individuals who may never have been asked about the domestic abuse they have been experiencing if the clinicians had not been trained.”
The expansion comes at a good time, according to Dr. Heather Potter, the IRIS Clinical Lead in Swansea Bay: “The training gives clinicians scripted words to use and mould so that the script becomes part of that clinician’s normal language. It gives you confidence to ask without fear of causing offence. The IRIS programme also gives a valued support service to refer the victim into for help should she want the help. I’m excited about making this project available to all women victims in SBUHB – No-one should go home to face violence and abuse.“
For how long have you been delivering the IRIS programme? How did it start?
Julia Ward: I started with IRIS on 11th May 2020 and we were already in lockdown. I had received IRIS training back in February 2020, however at that time was working in a different role within CALAN DVS as Team Leader in Neath Community. I received my IRIS Webinar training in June 2020. I delivered my first training of IRIS Clinical 1, alongside the wonderful Clinical Lead Dr. Heather Potter on 24/07/20.
Dr. Heather Potter: The IRIS training took place in February 2020 for the AE, Julia Ward, and me as Clinical Lead. We then had a set back with the lockdown. All training was cancelled and we had to wait for the programme to be rewritten to allow it to be delivered by webinar. Our first practice training session was delivered in June 2020.
How has the IRIS programme helped you to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse in Swansea Bay?
Julia Ward: As my previous role working as Team Leader with CALAN DVS involved the allocation of all referrals being received from various sources to help support those who are victim of Domestic Abuse, I can confirm we had very low referrals being received from any clinicians across Neath. The total received in the year 2019/20 was 3. Following IRIS being rolled out in the Neath area, I can confirm the referral rate has increased dramatically having received 39 referrals from clinicians to date. These are 39 individuals who may never have been asked about the domestic abuse they have been experiencing if the clinicians had not been trained.
Dr. Heather Potter: The key message to clinicians is that victims of DVA really find it very hard to disclose their abuse. They do however want us [the primary care clinician] to ask if this is something affecting them and then they will often disclose DVA. The training gives clinicians scripted words to use and mould so that the script becomes part of that clinician’s normal language. It gives you confidence to ask without fear of causing offence. The IRIS programme also gives a valued support service to refer the victim into for help should she want the help.
How was your experience in delivering the IRIS programme until now?
Julia Ward: The first time Heather and I delivered the training we were a bit like rabbits in the headlights. Our biggest fear being the technical side of things. However, Heather and I have persevered and have become more confident and capable of delivering the IRIS programmes and we work as a team to ensure that we deliver training to the highest possible standard.
Dr. Heather Potter: The project has been challenging in the webinar format but, generally speaking, practice clinicians and their R+A staff are interested and keen to learn. The webinar format lends itself to clinicians who would otherwise have missed training due to A/L or study leave.
Based on your experience, what are your expectations with the expansion? What are you most excited about?
Julia Ward: We are after all living in unprecedented times whereby IRIS and clinicians have had to adapt their working practices to ensure both their own safety and the safety of their patients. There has been a lot of reminding and being persistent in getting clinicians to engage with IRIS, and, as well as the administrative and technical challenges there has been a constant stream of IRIS patient referrals. My role is also to support those patients who need help because they are victims of domestic abuse.
The expansion of IRIS means I am excited that I now have more hours in which to deliver the programme and with 2 new IRIS Advocate Educators coming on board it also means we can spread the work and programme wider afield and help other victims of domestic abuse who have never been offered such an invaluable service.
I think I am most proud to know that what we have achieved in terms of delivery of training and the number of referrals received has been a success, and this success has been achieved in very challenging times.
Dr. Heather Potter: I am hoping for a brisk response from practices who are keen to be trained. I am hoping that the increased noise created by these new practices will persuade and influence those less keen to take part. I’m excited about making this project available to all women affected by domestic abuse in SBUHB – no one should go home to face violence and abuse. I think the best moments as CL in IRIS are when Julia and I have just finished teaching a keen practice who are well engaged and ask lots of questions. You just know those patients in that practice are going to be looked after.