Identification and Referral to Improve Safety

Safety, Hope, Change

Domestic abuse is a health issue, and we recognise that domestic abuse has devasting health impacts affecting both the physical and mental health of victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children.

My Sister’s Place is proud to deliver the IRIS Programme in Middlesbrough and since the launch in 2021 it has transformed the way that My Sisters Place and primary care professionals in Middlesbrough work together to support their patients who are impacted by domestic abuse.

What is IRIS?

General Practice plays an integral role in addressing the issue of and transforming responses to domestic violence and abuse.

The IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety) is a collaboration between primary care and third sector organisations specialising in domestic abuse.

The IRIS Programme provides training, support, referral, and advocacy model to support General Practice to better support their patients affected by domestic abuse.

The training ensures that General Practice staff are equipped to confidently respond to domestic abuse which will essentially improve the safety, quality of life and wellbeing of their patients who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

It is aimed at women who have experienced or who are experiencing domestic abuse from a current partner, ex-partner or adult family member and provides information and signposting for male victims and for perpetrators.

We know that victims/survivors of abuse trust Health Professionals and 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and these are often a woman’s first, or only, point of contact (Department of Health).

Victims and Survivors will often attempt to disclose during a consultation, half of women that access domestic abuse specialist support services have visited a GP practice an average of 4.6 times in the 12 months before they accessed specialist domestic abuse services (SafeLives 2016).

How it works

The programme provides two specialist members of staff, the Advocate Educator (a specialist domestic abuse advocate from My Sisters Place) and the Clinical Lead (a GP) who work together to train practices about domestic violence and abuse.

Our Advocate Educator with the support of the Clinical Lead, will deliver training and support for each IRIS practice in the Middlesbrough area to GPs and clinicians. Training and support are also provided to all frontline staff including Reception Staff.

The training focuses on providing information on how to recognise and identify domestic abuse through clinical enquiry and how to respond in terms of assessing immediate risk, how to record this information and to refer patients for specialist support.

Once each practice has received training, the practice becomes a domestic abuse aware practice. This is recognised and promoted to patients by the displaying of posters and information on social media.

The role of the Advocate Educator at My Sisters Place is to also provide advocacy and emotional support to patients whilst identifying risk, implementing safety plans and signposting to other services if necessary and acts as a named contact for patient referrals made via the IRIS programme.

Domestic Abuse Aware Practices in Middlesbrough

IRIS trained practices are ‘domestic abuse aware’ and are a safe place to disclose abuse and access support.

We currently have 12 domestic abuse aware practices in Middlesbrough:

  • Parkway Medical Centre
  • Kings Medical Centre
  • Hirsel Medical Centre
  • Borough Road and Nunthorpe Medical Group
  • Linthorpe Surgery
  • Newlands Medical Centre
  • The Village Medical Centre
  • Park & Thorntree Surgery,
  • Prospect Surgery
  • The Erimus Practice
  • The Discovery Practice
  • Acklam Medical Centre.

Please speak to your GP Surgery if you would like a referral to IRIS.

For more information on IRIS please contact our specialist Advocate Educator, Louise Thompson, who will provide training and support for GP’s and support and advocacy for patients. Louise can be contacted on

If you are a GP Practice and you would like to become a domestic abuse aware practice. Please contact IRIS Project Lead and Advocate Educator, Leanne Smith. Leanne can be contacted on

Healthwatch Award

In 2022 Leanne Smith (Advocate Educator/Project Lead) and Dr Jen Standen (Clinical Lead) were awarded the Healthwatch Community Innovator Award for the work delivering the IRIS programme.

Leanne Smith (Advocate Educator/Project Lead) and Dr Jen Standen (Clinical Lead) along with colleagues at Parkway Medical Centre who were our first domestic abuse aware practice in Middlesbrough.

Contact Us

If you would like to make an enquiry about any of our services, have any questions please complete the contact form below and we will reply as soon as possible.

Alternatively, if you prefer to speak to us directly, please call us:


01642 241 864