18 March 2022

Victorian GPs encouraged to undertake new training to respond to domestic and family violence

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is inviting Victorian GPs to undertake a new training program to build skills in responding to domestic and family violence.

The new training program resulted from findings from Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence, held in Victoria, which recommended professional development training for GPs in family and domestic violence.

Family and domestic violence is a major health issue in Australia. In the Australian Bureau of Statistics most recent personal safety survey, one in six women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by a current of previous partner since the age of 15.

Domestic and family violence services reported an increase in demand for services during pandemic lockdowns, which particularly affected people living in Victoria.

The Victorian Health Department has provided $300,000 in funding for the new GP training program, which will run for a year, with the possibility of extending it for another three years.

The RACGP also develops evidence-based guidelines to support GPs caring for patients experiencing family and domestic abuse and violence, called the White Book.

The training will be moderated by the RACGP and facilitated by a family violence expert who will lead GP Peer Group Learning sessions. GPs and practice staff who undertake the training will have the flexibility to choose when and how they want to learn. For more information visit the website here.

RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Munoz said GPs were well placed to help people experiencing domestic and family violence.

“GPs are uniquely placed to help people experiencing abuse and violence because patients trust their GP and tend to see us as the first port of call when something is wrong,” she said.

“This is supported by the data, which show victim-survivors disclose violence and abuse to GPs more than any other professional group, even more than police.

“GPs support victim-survivors in many ways, including providing ongoing management of both physical and mental health consequences, as well as providing referrals to other relevant health services and support groups.”

Dr Marina Malcolm, family violence facilitator and Co-Deputy Chair and Co-Chair, RACGP Victoria Women in General Practice Committee, said the new training would help GPs further build their skills.

“The Royal Commission recognised the important role GPs play in responding to domestic and family violence, and this training will help GPs further build their skills to do just that and ensure more people get the help they need,” she said.

“Every person and their experience of domestic and family violence and abuse is unique, and there are many different types that this training will drill down on. It includes domestic and family violence against women and children, as well as older people, people from culturally, linguistically and faith diverse communities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQI communities.

“We need to understand the many diverse forms of violence and abuse, and that every person’s experience is unique and that they need support that suits their own needs and circumstances. The training helps GPs recognise, support and respond to their patient’s unique needs.”

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said expanding access to Medicare patient rebates was also important so patients can get the help they need.

“It can be very difficult for people to talk about their experiences of domestic and family violence and make that first disclosure,” she said.

“Victim-survivors would really benefit from access to longer consultations, so they have the time needed to have these conversations with their GP. So new Medicare items for longer consultations would make a real difference.

“There are also barriers to care for people experiencing violence and abuse, which can easily be removed if the criteria for General Practitioner Management Plans are expanded to include those experiencing family violence.

“These simple changes will mean more people can access the care and support they need when they need it.”

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