More women suffer rape or attempted rape than have a stroke each year, and the level of domestic violence in the population exceeds that of diabetes; violence against women and children is therefore a public health issue of great concern, the report says.
Published today, it sets out a series of recommendations for the NHS to better support victims of violence. It stresses that increased awareness, training and education is necessary for NHS staff to be able to apply the same rigorous, systematic approach to this issue as has been applied to other areas of NHS work, such as diabetes and stroke.
Violence and abuse against women and children take many forms, and to support the work of the taskforce steering group, four sub-groups were set up covering domestic violence, sexual violence against women, child sexual abuse, and harmful traditional practices (including FGM, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’-based violence) and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Professor Feder, who co-chaired the domestic violence subgroup, hopes that this report will convince NHS trusts and health care professionals that violence against women is a major public health problem and part of the core business of the NHS.
In response to the report, Health Minister Ann Keen announced today that the Department of Health has set up a new group to help the NHS provide improved healthcare for women and children who are victims of violence.
She said: “Compared to the police, schools or social services, the NHS spends more time dealing with the impact of violence against women and children and although the Taskforce report identifies many examples of excellent care across the country, it is clear that we need to do more to help victims.
“As a nurse, I am determined that NHS staff are made fully aware of the range of violence and abuse that women and children are subjected to, the health issues related to this and what the NHS can do to ensure that victims receive the very best of care to help them through such difficult times. That is why we are setting up an Implementation Group to drive forward work in this area and to help raise awareness of this terrible issue.”
Professor Sir George Alberti, Chair of the Taskforce, said: “Violence against women and children is a public health issue of great concern and the NHS has a clear duty to help and contribute to the multi-agency efforts to increase the safety of women and children in our society and provide much greater support.”