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Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

The Federal Government has announced $300,000 in funding to update clinical guidelines to help general practitioners (GPs) better respond to family violence.

Abuse and violence: Working with our patients in general practice (the Whitebook) is a manual resource designed to guide doctors and medical experts to identify family violence and support patients experiencing abuse.

Last reviewed in 2014, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will use the funding to update the Whitebook and ensure medical practitioners across the country have current, tailored and evidence-informed advice at their disposal.

The initiative is part of the a broader $9.6 million government commitment, announced in the Federal Government’s 2019–20 Budget, to build the capability of more healthcare professionals to better recognise and respond to patients experiencing abuse. 

Closer to home: Royal Commission Implementation 

After family and friends, it is GPs and other primary healthcare providers who people experiencing family violence most often turn to for help and support.

Research has found that approximately one quarter of women seeking help in relation to their abuse confide initially in a healthcare professional. It’s been estimated that every week a GP sees up to five women who have been abused by their partners, though the GP may not be aware of this abuse.

The powerful role GPs have to play in responding to family violence was captured by several recommendations that came out of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.  

These included creating a database of health professionals with family violence expertise, making family violence training a mandatory requirement for all GPs, and developing a family violence learning agenda for current and future medical practitioners.  

All of these recommendations have either been implemented or are currently in progress. 

GP responses even more crucial during COVID-19

According to RACGP Chair, Dr Charlotte Hespe, the Federal Government’s funding announcement could not have come at a more pressing time given the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 on the prevalence and severity of family violence in our communities. 

“It is a sad and unfortunate reality that the COVID-19 pandemic will have increased cases of family and domestic abuse and violence in Australia.” 

“We must do all we can to ensure GPs are equipped with the skills and resources to help people experiencing abuse and violence and ensure they get the support they need,” she added.

Since the funding announcement, the RACGP has released a COVID-19 and family violence support fact sheetoutlining the indicators of family violence all general practitioners should be looking out for, plus practical advice on how to safely consult with patients over the phone or during video consultations. 

The College has also released a self-paced professional development program for GPs on responding to family violence, which can be accessed via their website.  

If you are a GP looking to discuss a patient’s circumstances with a specialist family violence professional, you can contact 1800 RESPECT 24/7 on 1800737732 for guidance and support.