New RCM report highlights domestic abuse support

By Julie Griffiths on 08 October 2018 Domestic Abuse RCM Report

The RCM has called for the NHS to do more to address staff experiencing domestic abuse in its new report Safe places? Workplace support for those experiencing domestic abuse.

It said that all NHS trusts and health boards should develop specific policies to support who are victims of domestic abuse, aligned to existing guidance from the NHS staff council developed in 2017. 

The RCM has also called for employers to ensure that all managers and supervisors are trained on domestic abuse issues, so that they can recognise signs of domestic abuse in their staff and confidently undertake their safeguarding obligations.

And they should provide and publicise confidential domestic abuse support services for affected staff, including access to external counselling and legal services as appropriate.

The RCM said the measures are needed because midwives, MSWs, nurses and healthcare assistants are, according to the WHO, reported to be three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year than the average citizen within the UK.

The RCM report is the result of an online survey of its members between July and August 2018. Questions were asked in relation to workplace support for staff experiencing domestic abuse, via the annual survey of HoMs and directors of midwifery services. 

As a supplementary activity, the RCM also obtained information from NHS trusts, using the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether trusts have relevant policies in place to support staffs who are victims of domestic abuse. 

The data was analysed by the RCM both qualitatively and quantitatively to capture the range and diversity of thoughts, feelings and experiences.

RCM CEO Gill Walton said it was ‘utterly shocking how widespread domestic abuse is’. 

‘Midwifery is predominantly a female profession and victims of domestic abuse are mostly women,’ she said.

This is why the NHS needed to do more to support its workforce on this matter, she added.

‘The irony is that some midwives and MSWs as frontline health professionals, who are trained to recognise domestic abuse and support women, were sometimes not recognising that they themselves were victims of domestic abuse. If they did, many felt fearful and ashamed about what was happening to them. The stigma that affects so many survivors of abuse affects our RCM members too,’ said Gill.

She added: ‘Our members told us in this survey that a supportive and confidential environment in the workplace, where they feel able to disclose information about domestic abuse without fear or shame, could well be the light at the end of the tunnel. They need leaders and colleagues to be supportive, have robust policies to give that support some structure, and know that disclosing makes them stronger.’ 

For example, one member said: ‘I was allowed to stay overnight on my delivery suite to avoid going home to my abusive partner.’

But not all employers were as helpful, as another member revealed: ‘I was made to feel I was a nuisance, constantly asking me and contacting me, pressurising me in to coming back to work. I didn’t receive any support that was effective for me.’
Access the full report here.