A hospital-based independent domestic violence advisor service: demand and response during the Covid-19 pandemic

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Background and aim
Recent UK policy has focussed on improving support for victims of domestic violence and abuse (DVA), in healthcare settings. DVA victims attending hospital are often at highest risk of harm, yet DVA support in hospitals has been inadequate. A targeted service supporting high risk DVA victims, was implemented at a hospital Trust in North West England. The service was provided by Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs). This paper assesses the activity in the hospital-based IDVA service during the COVID-19 pandemic and addresses the research questions: What was the demand for the service? How did the service respond? What facilitated this response?

A mixed-methods study was undertaken. Quantitative data on referrals to the service were examined using simple descriptive statistics and compared to other DVA services. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with IDVAs and other hospital staff involved with the service and the data subjected to thematic analysis.

The quantitative analysis showed that referrals dropped at the start of lockdown, then increased and continued to rise; the qualitative findings reiterated this pattern. Referrals came from a range of departments across the Trust, with the majority from A&E. Pre-pandemic, the population supported by the service included higher proportions of males and people aged 40 and over than at other IDVA services; this continued during the pandemic. The qualitative findings indicated a flexible response during the pandemic, enabled by strong working relationships and by using workarounds.

The hospital-based IDVAs provided an efficient, flexible service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Referrals increased during the first lockdown and subsequent relaxing of restrictions. Locating the IDVAs within a team working across the organisation, and building good working relationships facilitated an effective disclosure and referral route, which endured through social restrictions. The IDVAs supported high-risk victims who may otherwise not have been identified in traditional community-based DVA settings during the pandemic. Hospital-based IDVA services can broaden access by supporting vulnerable, at risk populations whose needs may not be identified at other services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number865
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Evaluation
  • Health services
  • Hospitals
  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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