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What is Pathfinder?

Pathfinder is a pilot project run by a consortium of 5 expert partners with the aim of establishing comprehensive health practice in relation to domestic abuse and wider issues related to Violence Against Women & Girls in acute hospital trusts, mental health trusts and community-based IRIS programmes in GP practices. The project will be evaluated by Cardiff University. 


We are:

  • Working with health stakeholders across 8 UK sites to: identify and share good practice; turn guidance into practice; provide interventions where needed and link parts of the health economy to each other.

  • Linking local specialist services to health for a coordinated community response.

  • Sharing learning & guiding national dissemination of good practice to inform future policy work and data collection.

  • Developing a publicly available “toolkit” which will enable others across the country to follow a road map to achieve a model response to domestic abuse in health settings.

Pathfinder funders:

Our Aims


To improve the response to domestic abuse across the health economy in the UK


75% of domestic violence results in physical injury or mental health consequences to women

Domestic abuse is the leading cause of morbidity for women aged 19-44, greater than cancer, war and road traffic accidents

There is extensive contact between women and primary care clinicians with 90% of all female patients consulting their GP over a five-year period

80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services, usually GPs, at least once and this may be their first or only contact with professionals

1 in 8 of all suicides and suicide attempts by women in the UK are due to domestic abuse

30% of domestic abuse starts/escalates during pregnancy

1 in 4 women in contact with mental health services are likely to be experiencing domestic abuse when you see them

51,355 NHS staff are likely to have experienced abuse in the past 12 months

Find out more:

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Domestic abuse, a health issue?

Meet the consortium

Standing Together supports organisations, including healthcare workers, the police, criminal justice partners, social services and charities, to identify and respond effectively together to domestic violence. Our ultimate aim is to help these agencies to work in partnership, so that people receive the best support at the time they need it. Find out more here.

Imkaan is a national second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls which are defined in policy terms as Black and ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME). The organisation holds nearly two decades of experience of working around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence. They work at a local, national and international level, and in partnership with a range of organisations, to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls. Find out more here.

AVA’s work is focussed around those areas where we can make the best contribution to ending violence and abuse. They do this by making sure that survivors get the help and support they need in the here and now, through providing innovative training, developing a range of toolkits, e-learning and other material that supports professionals to provide effective and appropriate support to survivors of violence and abuse and using their influence and networks to ensure survivors voices are heard. AVA holds specialist expertise around working with women facing multiple disadvantage, children and young people. Find out more here.

IRIS is a general practice-based domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training support and referral programme that has been evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. Core areas of the programme are training and education, clinical enquiry, care pathways and an enhanced referral pathway to specialist domestic violence services. It is aimed at women who are experiencing DVA. Find out more here.

SafeLives are a UK charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. They combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 70,000 adults and 120,000 children now receiving co-ordinated support annually. Find out more here.

Meet our pilot sites

Pilot Site 1 - Blackpool

Pilot Site 2 - Exeter & North Devon

Pilot Site 3 - Haringey & Enfield

Pilot Site 4 - Somerset

Pilot Site 5 - Three Councils (Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham)

Pilot Site 6 - Camden & Islington

Pilot Site 7 - North Staffordshire

Pilot Site 8 - Southampton

To find out more about the work in your area please contact the appropriate Site Lead below:

Lucy is the Site Lead for Blackpool and she can be contacted by email

Ruth is the Site Lead for Haringey & Enfield and Camden & Islington. She can be contacted by email

Vanya is the Site Lead for the Three Councils and she can be contacted by email

Naomi is the Site Lead for Exeter & North Devon and Somerset and she can be contacted by email

Ruth is the Site Lead for North Staffordshire & Southampton and she can be contacted by email


Our events

In May 2019 we held 3 events focusing on responses to domestic abuse in GP, acute & mental health settings. The events brought together academics, experts from the field & practitioners from our Pathfinder sites to share learning & promising practice.


Some of the key themes & highlights from the days are captured in the video below.

Pathfinder Profiles

The 3 Health Profiles provide practical to General Practitioners, Acute Hospital Practitioners and Mental Health Practitioners. They provide practical advice and outline how to ask about abuse and respond to disclosures from patient, refer and signpost victims of domestic abuse and share best practice approaches of responding to domestic abuse in different health settings.

SafeLives’ Insights dataset found that on average, a victim will experience abuse for three years before getting effective help and will visit their GP on average 4.3 times*. It is imperative that GP's are equipped to ask the right questions and support victims through disclosure and referral. 

*SafeLives, Insights health England and Wales 2018 

I just cried. I was just so relieved that somebody, that somebody just said something. And he (the GP) gave me the box of tissues and I just sat and cried and cried and cried. And he said, 'Tell me when you're ready.' And I poured it all out and that's when he said about the specialist worker. He said, there is somebody out there to help me. I'm not on my own. And if I want help, it's there and not to be ashamed of it. Which I was, really ashamed of it. And he said, 'You're not on your own. We can get you this help.' And he did. He really did.

       - Survivor who was supported by an Iris-trained GP                     surgery


GP Briefing paper: Guidance for General Practitioners responding to domestic abuse. 

Hospital Briefing Paper: Guidance for practice staff in Acute Hospitals responding to domestic abuse

Mental Health Briefing Paper: Guidance for Mental Health Practitioners responding to domestic abuse

Visit the SafeLives website for further content for GPs, Mental Health and Hospitals, such as blogs from fellow practitioners, MARAC guidance and good practice case studies. 


Use the hashtag #HealthPathfinder to follow the action on Twitter. 

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The toolkit

Coming Soon!

Contact us