Domestic violence education inadequate across UK medical schools, finds new study

Teaching on domestic violence and abuse (DVA) should be mandatory in medical education according to a new University of Bristol study that highlights current levels as inadequate.

DVA is a major violation of human rights that damages the health of women, men and their children. Thirty-five per cent of women worldwide have suffered abuse from their husband or partner.1 NICE guidelines recommend that teaching about DVA should be an integral part of medical education.

The study, published today [6 Oct] in The Clinical Teacher , analysed the results of an online survey completed by primary care teaching leads at 25 out of 34 medical schools to assess the extent and adequacy of DVA education provided in the UK.

Twenty-one medical schools reported delivering some form of DVA education, however 11 reported providing only 0 to 2 contact hours on the subject over a five-year degree. Most of the schools offering DVA education were found to offer this as part of a teaching session or lecture between years 3 to 5 delivered by a range of different methods and providers across different modules.

The authors recommend more consistency and structure in DVA curricular content and, in line with NICE guidance, that policy makers consider making DVA education mandatory.

Dr Lucy Potter , the study’s lead author from Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) , said: “Doctors are central to the identification, safety and referral of DVA survivors, who are more likely to disclose abuse to them than to any other professionals. These findings show there is considerable variation in how much DVA education is taught to UK medical students. When considering the profound impact on health and wellbeing it is imperative that the future generation of doctors are equipped with sufficient training to be able to recognise the signs of DVA in patients and manage or refer them through the appropriate channels.”

Professor Gene Feder , study co-author, who leads research on DVA at the CAPC said: “We need to move beyond tokenism with regard to DVA in medical training. This is long overdue and requires a national effort, not dependent on champions in individual medical schools.”

The authors conclude that the marginal presence of DVA in the medical undergraduate curriculum is inadequate in light of the DVA’s impact on health. They recommend increasing the content and integrating it into the curriculum at several points, from pre-clinical to clinical years.

The study was funded by the Scientific Foundation Board of the Royal College of General Practitioners.