NHS staff will be trained to spot signs of domestic abuse in a bid to improve support for victims

ALL NHS staff will be trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse for the first time in a bid to improve support for victims.

Hospitals and GP surgeries will be told to consider if patients may be in a toxic relationship and how to raise the issue.

They can then direct them to specialist counsellors or support lines.

Signs may include unexplained injuries and them being joined at appointments by a partner who will not leave them alone.

Surveys show only 15 per cent of survivors feel confident their local health service can adequately support them.

And less than 20 per cent thought GPs could identify signs of violence and abuse.

The scheme, named Pathfinder, has been successfully piloted in some areas of the country and will now be rolled out nationwide.

It identified 633 patients in need of support, who otherwise may have been missed.

Nine in ten felt safer after their health worker intervened, with dramatic reductions in their abuse.

'Hope for thousands'

Domestic abuse charity Standing Together, which called for the NHS to adopt the initiative, says thousands more could now be helped.

Gudrun Burnet, from Standing Together, said: “Domestic abuse is a public health issue and health services play a crucial role in responding to it.

“Findings from the Pathfinder project show that when supporting domestic abuse survivors is fully integrated into how health services operate, we can identify more survivors who would otherwise be missed and offer them the specialist support they need.”

Kenny Gibson, head of safeguarding at NHS England, said: “We know that 80 per cent of women experiencing domestic abuse seek help from health services, and for many it’s their only point of contact.

“That’s why domestic abuse is a strategic priority for NHS England.

“We are delighted to support the launch of the Pathfinder Toolkit, which will help promote a strategic, consistent response to domestic abuse in every part of our healthcare system.” 

Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, said: “Pathfinder shows what is possible when tackling domestic abuse is seen as core business for a health setting.”

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