Hospital admissions for abused woman in Northampton 'just the tip of the iceberg' warn campaigners
Up to 35 women admitted to hospital but police record more than 31,000 violent domestic abuse crimes over same period
Injuries inflicted on women by their partners resulted in up to 35 admissions at Northampton General Hospital over five years, figures suggest, despite police recording tens of thousands of violent domestic abuse crimes.
Campaigners have warned that hospital admissions for abuse – which have risen steadily across England – are just "the tip of the iceberg".
NHS Digital data shows at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, there were between five and 35 admissions of female victims following abuse by a spouse or partner in the five years to March 2020.
Exact numbers are not available when there are fewer than eight cases a year, to protect patient identity.
Different data from the Home Office shows Northamptonshire Police recorded 31,765 violent domestic abuse crimes over the same period – a vastly greater figure.
The trust figures cover patients where the primary external cause of injury was a form of maltreatment, including physical or sexual abuse, mental cruelty or torture.
It means the victim could fall under another category if such abuse was listed as a secondary diagnosis.
Women's Aid a charity supporting female victims of violence, says the number of women being admitted to hospital for domestic and sexual abuse is "severely" under-reported nationally.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive, said: "An estimated 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020, and the police recorded 758,941 domestic abuse crimes in the same year.
"Yet the number of hospital admissions for the same crimes remains disproportionately only in the hundreds each year."
Across England, admissions for maltreatment by a partner or spouse rose gradually year-on-year, to 453 in 2019-20.
Ruth Davison, chief executive officer of domestic abuse charity Refuge, said the figures are alarming.
"What’s even more concerning is that these numbers are likely to be the tip of the iceberg," she added.
"Refuge knows that many women suffer in silence; never attending hospital, even in cases of severe physical abuse, often out of fear of retribution from their perpetrator.
"Some women will be accompanied to hospital by the perpetrator who harmed them and coerced into lying about the cause of their injuries. These cases are unlikely to be accounted for in the given data."
Ms Davison said the charity has seen a surge in calls and contacts during the coronavirus pandemic, "pulling into sharp focus" how many women across the country have experience abused during a year of restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
Women's Aid says a health care setting may be a victim's first point of contact with a public service and is sometimes the only place where they can safely disclose their experience.
But despite this, the charity is concerned that some health professionals are "not consistently identifying and recording" women experiencing domestic and sexual violence.
Ms Nazeer said systemic change is needed to ensure NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups are committed to tackling violence against women, including monitoring of data, specialist training for staff and funding for local services.
An NHS spokesperson said staff are offered safeguarding training to identify, advise and support victims and survivors, and "further work is underway" to expand the availability of these services.
They added: "All trusts can provide or signpost the service of an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor and we have instructed all mental health providers to establish 24-7 mental health crisis lines for people needing urgent support and advice, including domestic abuse and assault victims.”