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Queen Mary study wins ‘Research Paper of the Year’ award

A study led by Queen Mary University of London has today been announced as the overall winner of the Royal College of General Practitioners Research Paper of the Year award.

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General practitioner reassuring a patient. Credit:
General practitioner reassuring a patient. Credit:

The 2020 Research Paper of the Year (RPY) ‘Improving the healthcare response to domestic violence’, was a collaborative study involving Queen Mary University of London, the Centre for Academic Primary Care, Bristol Medical School, and IRISi, a social enterprise supporting women experiencing domestic violence and abuse (DVA).

The research, published in the journal BMC Medicine, looked at 205 general practices across London that had implemented IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety), a training and support programme to help primary care teams identify and refer women affected by DVA. The study found that implementation of the IRIS programme led to a 30-fold increase in domestic violence and abuse referrals for women across the general practices.

Commenting on the study, Dr Alex Sohal lead author of the paper, said: "This is revolutionary research as it's about changing the world, including the GP consultation - our research shows clinician behaviour can be changed: improved listening, identifying and discussion of patients' experiences of domestic violence and abuse in relation to their health. This happened when clinicians were supported by IRIS - a system level intervention - that's equivalent to a Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic to which GPs can refer patients with chest pain."

The paper was selected as the overall winner from 53 high-quality submissions and was recognised by the reviewing panel as being particularly relevant in the light of COVID restrictions and widespread reports of increased domestic violence during ‘lockdowns’. They said: “This programme of work, building on the IRIS trial, provides evidence that a system-level programme that embeds direct referral pathways to specialist domestic violence and abuse (DVA) agencies within health services, underpinned by face-to-face training of clinicians and their teams, including on-going reinforcement strategies, improves the case identification and referrals for DVA. This study exemplifies the need for recognition, support and compassion for this vulnerable group of patients.”

The RPY awards give recognition to an individual or group of researchers who have undertaken and published an exceptional piece of research relating to general practice or primary care. Papers are scored on the criteria of originality, impact, contribution to the reputation of general practice, scientific approach, and presentation.

Winners of the 2020 awards were announced at the RCGP Annual Conference held in Liverpool on 14-15 October 2021.

Professor Fiona Walter, Director of the Wolfson Institute of Population Health was also recognised as senior author of the winning paper in the Clinical Research category, 'The diagnostic performance of CA125 for the detection of ovarian and non-ovarian cancer in primary care: A population-based cohort study'.

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