Domestic violence experts say admission to hospital is a crucial moment for healthcare workers to step in with specialist support, warning that too often opportunities to intervene and tackle abuse are missed.
Previously unpublished figures obtained by NationalWorld from England’s NHS Digital, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and NHS Wales reveals 2,086 female patients were admitted to hospital in Britain after suffering sexual, physical or mental abuse at the hands of a partner between April 2015 and March 2020. In Yorkshire, a total of 150 women were hospitalised at the actions of their partners.
Across Yorkshire, Bradford Teaching Hospitals Trust had the highest number of female patients admitted. There were between 28 and 46 admissions recorded between April 2015 and March 2020. NHS Digital suppresses figures between one and seven to protect patient identities, so it is only possible to calculate a minimum and maximum range.
The other trusts include:
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust: Between 5 and 35;
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: Between 5 and 35;
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: Between 5 and 35;
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust: Between 5 and 35;
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: Between 4 and 28;
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: Between 4 and 28;
Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: Between 4 and 28;
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust: Between 3 and 21;
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust: Between 3 and 21;
York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: Between 2 and 14;
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust: Between 2 and 14;
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: Between 2 and 14;
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust: Between 1 and 7;
Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust: Between 1 and 7.
The figures refer to admissions where an external cause of injury has been recorded using the diagnosis code ‘other maltreatment,’ which includes sexual or physical abuse, torture or mental cruelty. It does not include rape or sexual assault by bodily force.
Across Britain, 4,486 women and girls were admitted having suffered this maltreatment over the five-year period, with at least 47 per cent of cases at the hands of a spouse or partner.
The admissions figures include children, so the proportion of adult women hospitalised by a partner will be higher still.
Across Yorkshire hospitals there were 335 admissions, 45 per cent of which were due to a partner.
Analysis of previously published NHS Digital data shows the number of female abuse patients outnumbers male patients more than two to one, with maltreatment the second most common external cause of women and girls being admitted compared to sixth most common for men and boys.
Evie Duarte, IDAS North Yorkshire Regional Manager, said: "Sadly we are not surprised by these figures but deeply saddened by them.
"The numbers of women being hospitalised because of domestic abuse and sexual violence will be much greater than this number, but they will present with a range of conditions, including self-harm so will not be counted in the figures.
"Violence against women and girls is devastatingly pervasive in our society with as many as one in three women being subjected to sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Contact with GP surgeries and hospitals, however, can be a critical opportunity for health professionals to ask crucial questions and refer to specialist support agencies such as IDAS.
"We support anyone who has been affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence, whether they want to report the crime or not, and irrespective of whether they are living with the perpetrator.
"We provide victims and survivors of abuse with practical support such as safety planning if they choose to stay, or help if they wish to flee, as well as emotional support to help them recover from the trauma caused by abuse."
Charity Women’s Aid said NationalWorld’s research underlined the importance of ensuring health staff are fully trained on the issue of domestic abuse.
Sarah Davidge, research and evaluation manager at the charity, said: "We know how prevalent domestic abuse is in our society, so, sadly, we are not surprised to hear of the numbers of survivors who have been hospitalised due to abuse by a partner or spouse.
"Domestic abuse is largely a hidden crime and very few survivors report domestic abuse to the police. For many women, a visit to the hospital or the GP can be the only time they are alone and safe to disclose their experiences without risk from the abuser.
"All health professionals need to have specialist training on domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls, to ensure they respond safely and effectively.”
She added that Office for National Statistics figures for England and Wales showed 57 per cent of all female murder or manslaughter victims where a suspect was identified were killed by a current or ex-partner.
PHS also cautioned that the figures may be an under representation, as some victims may not disclose details of their abuse or staff may not record it in full in the patient notes.
Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, echoed the Women’s Aid’s comments, adding admission into hospital can be a “crucial moment” for survivors to find help if specialist support is provided to them.
She said: “Healthcare professionals are often trusted in a way that others – such as police or social workers – are not, and may be more aware of issues than other statutory agencies.
“Both victims and perpetrators are more likely to interact with the healthcare system than people who are not affected by domestic abuse, and yet so often opportunities to identify abuse early and intervene are missed.”
Encouraging all health organisations to adopt the best practice on domestic violence seen in some exemplary NHS groups will be a key priority for her office, she added.
Anyone who is affected by domestic abuse in Yorkshire can call the IDAS helpline on 03000 110 110, or go to idas.org.uk where they will find resources and information and access to a Live Chat Facility.