Objective: To examine midwives' perceptions and experiences of routine enquiry for domestic violence.
Design: Focus groups and semi-structured interviews.
Setting: The study was conducted in the maternity services of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Hospital Trust, an inner London teaching hospital.
Sample: Twenty-eight midwives were interviewed.
Methods: One hundred and sixteen out of 145 (80%) midwives were trained to screen routinely pregnant women for domestic violence at booking, at 34 weeks of gestation and postpartum. Twenty midwives attended one of four focus groups and eight semi-structured interviews were conducted. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using content analysis.
Main outcome measures: Midwives' views of routine enquiry for domestic violence.
Results: Midwives felt that domestic violence was an important issue to be addressed. However, practical and personal difficulties were encountered during the study. These included: time constraints, lack of confidential time, safety issues, staff shortages, low staff morale and midwives' personal experiences of domestic violence. The study produced a raised awareness about domestic violence within the maternity unit. There was considerable support for the idea of a specialist domestic violence midwife.
Conclusions: Routine enquiry for domestic violence cannot be implemented effectively without ensuring that in-depth training, resources, staff support and policies to ensure that screening can be conducted safely and confidentially are in place.