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General practice as a place to receive help for domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study in England and Wales

Emsley, E. ORCID: 0009-0005-2060-1545, Coope, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-7803-8760, Williamson, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-0912-0303 , Barbosa Capelas, E. ORCID: 0000-0001-8282-131X, Feder, G. ORCID: 0000-0002-7890-3926 & Szilassy, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-6267-0531 (2023). General practice as a place to receive help for domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study in England and Wales. British Journal of General Practice, 73(735), e769-e777. doi: 10.3399/bjgp.2022.0528


Background: General practice is an important place for patients experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence and abuse (DVA), and for their children to seek and receive help. While the incidence of DVA may have increased during the COVID- 19 pandemic, there has been a reduction in DVA identifications and referrals to specialist services from general practice. Concurrently there has been the imposition of lockdown measures and a shift to remote care in general practices in the UK.

Aim: To understand the patient perspective of seeking and receiving help for DVA in general practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was then compared with experiences of general practice healthcare professionals.

Design and setting: A qualitative interview study in seven urban general practices in England and Wales, as part of a feasibility study of IRIS+, an integrated primary care DVA system-level training and support intervention.

Method: Semi-structured interviews with 21 patients affected by DVA and 13 general practice healthcare professionals who had received IRIS+ training. Analysis involved a Framework approach.

Results: Patients recounted positive experiences of seeking help for DVA in general practice during the pandemic. However, there have been perceived problems with the availability of general practice and a strong preference for face-to-face consultations, over remote consultations, for the opportunities of non- verbal communication. There were also concerns from healthcare professionals regarding the invisibility of children affected by DVA.

Conclusion: Perspectives of patients and their families affected by DVA should be prioritised in general practice service planning, including during periods of transition and change.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is Open Access: CC BY 4.0 licence (
Publisher Keywords: COVID-19, domestic violence, pandemics, primary health care, qualitative research, referral and consultation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Violence and Society Centre
SWORD Depositor:
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