MANCHESTER WOMEN’S AID claims that victims of domestic abuse in Salford are being forced to fork out costly GP fees for written evidence of their abuse.

Catherine Cutt, a member of the health team stationed at the Pankhurst Centre, said:

“These fees are certainly an issue – they act as a barrier for women accessing support, as general practices can play a key part in identifying victims.

“In Manchester city, we commission an initiative called IRIS – that is, identification and referral to approve safety – it’s a specific initiative that works in all 90 GP practices across the city to identify and help victims of domestic abuse.”

But whilst women and men in central Manchester can access the help they need, those outside of the town centre continue to struggle.

Catherine continued: “There are some IRIS services rolling in to Salford, but where we’re years ahead in Manchester, the Salford side of the programme is still in it’s infancy- some women are still at risk.

“It is difficult to intervene – GP practices run as independent businesses.”

In 2016, there were 5,934 incidents of domestic abuse in Salford alone.

Written evidence, such as a GP letter, is compulsory for a victim to access legal aid – for many, it is a vital step in their escape from the horrors of their home life.

The news comes after Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, launched a Nationwide petition to scrap the extortionate GP fees imposed on victims.

Watson’s campaign was founded after he took a visit to a domestic violence crisis centre named Safe Spots in Whythenshawe, Greater Manchester.

In a statement, Watson said: “[a victim] needs to provide a prescribed piece of evidence to prove she has been subjected to abuse.

“One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from a GP – I was told that some GPs charge a fee – in one case it was £75 – to produce that letter.

“I have since discovered that doctors are free to levy an unspecified fee for providing this medical evidence, as it sits outside of the NHS contract.

“For a woman on a low income, who may be on benefits, or might be financially controlled and coerced by an abusive partner, the idea of a paying a fee is as offensive as it is ridiculous.

“Sometimes they are struggling  – and not always succeeding – to feed a family and pay the bills.”

Cutt believes the petition will be a catalyst to boost awareness of the issues domestic abuse victims face.

“[the petition] is getting our message across – any national awareness raising can only be a good thing”, said Catherine.

To sign the petition, follow the link here.

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