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20-09-2012 | General practice | Article

MDU advises GPs on domestic abuse


Medical Defence Union

medwireNews: The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has issued advice to GP members on dealing with domestic abuse, after finding that queries it receives on the issue commonly relate to confidentiality as well as how best to care for and support patients.

The MDU studied 267 enquiries made to the its advice line and 29 case files involving domestic abuse over a recent 2-year period.

Twenty-five of the cases involved GPs seeking advice on disclosure of records to patients in connection with court cases arising from domestic abuse, and on confidentiality and disclosure to appropriate agencies.

Dr Yvonne McCombie, medico-legal adviser at the MDU, commented: "Domestic abuse is a difficult matter to deal with for all those involved. One thing that all victims, children and perpetrators of domestic abuse have in common is that they are likely to have a GP.

"This means that GPs play a crucial role in identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse. It is positive to see that our GP members are contacting us for advice and guidance on what can be a very complex issue."

Key recommendations from the MDU include being aware of current guidance on identifying and managing patients presenting with apparent signs of domestic abuse, ensuring the practice has a clear protocol in place and observing duties of confidentiality to patients - where possible seeking consent for all disclosures.

In circumstances where there is a significant risk of serious harm, advice should be sought regarding the justification of disclosures in the public interest, the MDU states.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price