16 February 2021 

The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol in partnership with NIHR ARC West and IRISi are launching IRIS ADViSE programme and commissioning prospectus (PDF) on 24 March 2021 at a webinar at 10-11am. IRIS ADViSE (Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environments) is an initiative that supports sexual health staff to identify and respond to patients affected by domestic violence and abuse (DVA), helping to refer them on to specialist services.

The launch will be hosted by Medina Johnson, IRISi Chief Executive, and Dr Jeremy Horwood, Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol and NIHR ARC West, who led the evaluation of IRIS ADViSE. They will be joined by Dr Judith Berry, Consultant in Sexual Health at Unity Sexual Health, who will talk about her experience of implementing IRIS ADViSE. Please register via Eventbrite if you would like to attend.

Estimates suggest that in the UK just over 26 per cent of heterosexual women, 32 per cent of gay / lesbian women, 45 per cent of bisexual women, 27 per cent of gay men, 14 per cent of heterosexual men and 80 per cent of transgender people will experience domestic violence and abuse at some point in their lives (ONS, 2018).

DVA often leads to sexual health and gynaecological problems. DVA is also associated with increased sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unintended pregnancy.

Sexual health services can be the first point of contact for those experiencing DVA. This means sexual health staff can have a key role to play in supporting those who have experienced DVA to access specialist advocacy services. However, most sexual health professionals have had minimal training in identifying and responding to DVA.

ADViSE adapts the already successful GP IRIS programme to be used in sexual health clinics. It supports sexual health staff to recognise the signs and symptoms of DVA, ask patients whether they are affected, give a validating response, and offer and make patient referrals to specialist services in line with British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASSH) guidance.

ADViSE has been piloted in sexual health clinics in Bristol and East London. The mixed methods evaluation found ADViSE increased staff enquiries about DVA, responses to patients who disclose and referrals, as well as increasing staff confidence in recognising and responding to DVA.

Since the pilot, ADViSE has been further refined in collaboration with DVA survivors, specialist advocacy services, commissioners, sexual health staff and patients. The team have now developed a commissioning prospectus (PDF). ADViSE is officially endorsed by BASHH.

Jeremy Horwood, Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Health at University of Bristol and NIHR ARC West, said: “Sexual health problems are common for people experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Sexual healthcare staff can have a key role in supporting patients’ access to advocacy services, but most staff have not had much training in identifying and responding to DVA. Our findings demonstrated that IRIS ADViSE can help sexual healthcare staff support patients experiencing DVA. We hope the ADViSE commissioning prospectus will help its wider roll out.”

Medina Johnson, Chief Executive at IRISi, said: “We invite all sexual health clinicians to take part in this event, where we will be presenting the methods and results of the IRIS ADViSE Programme. It will be a great opportunity to learn how to improve the identification and response to patients affected by domestic violence and abuse, and facilitate referral to specialist services.”

If you want to join the launch on 24 March at 10-11am, please register on Eventbrite.

Download the ADViSE commissioning prospectus (PDF).

Further information

About the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation. 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation is a partnership between Public Health England and University of Bristol, in collaboration with MRC Biostatistics Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and University of the West of England. 

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by PHE to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

About the NIHR 

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.