Refuge recently shared a public statement about the potential impacts of the changes to accessing medical records. IRISi completely share the concerns raised however, we are aware that these changes are going ahead and therefore want to ensure there is support in place for both health professionals and survivors when navigating this change. Our work has always been about bridging the gap between health and the specialist Domestic Abuse sector. We recognise the challenges for general practices, the concerns from the sector and that safe support for patients is required to reduce risk.
For over a year, IRISi and Women’s Aid have been attending monthly meetings with the NHSE Safeguarding Reference Group. These meetings have been an opportunity to identify the specific issues the changes to access might have on a range of patients, including those who may be at risk of domestic abuse and in particular coercion and control. As well as identifying specific problems, the group has been able to implement safeguarding measures intended to ameliorate risks. This includes a national system of reporting of adverse effects which the group can address, including making recommendations for systems changes, if appropriate.
IRISi produced guidance on this issue last October (click here to read it), and held a drop-in session for any concerned Advocate Educators and Clinical Leads who are part of the IRIS network.
All IRIS programmes provide comprehensive training to all clinicians about Domestic Abuse in general practice and part of this includes, and has always included, training on how to safely and appropriately record DA. This training has been advising to hide all consultations referencing Domestic Abuse from online access for at least the last 6-7 years, as per the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) recording guidance. We are currently updating these materials to ensure there is even clearer guidance around the increased access.
All IRISi advocates and clinical leads delivering IRIS locally receive training from IRISi and, for the last couple of years, we have been paying particular attention to flag the incoming increased access to online records and the importance of hiding/redacting anything in relation to Domestic Abuse from victims, vulnerable adults and children’s records.
Our approach throughout, alongside Women’s Aid and our NHSE colleagues, has been to support increasing clinician knowledge of the risks of these changes and how to address them. Public facing messaging has been carefully considered so as not to alert potential perpetrators to these changes, whilst increasing the awareness, knowledge and skills of advocates and clinicians who can then raise with individual patients and the health staff providing care.
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