Two-year follow up of a cluster randomised controlled trial for women experiencing intimate partner violence: effect of screening and family doctor-delivered counselling on quality of life, mental and physical health and abuse exposure

BMJ Open. 2020 Dec 10;10(12):e034295. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-034295.


Objectives: This was a 2-year follow-up study of a primary care-based counselling intervention (weave) for women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). We aimed to assess whether differences in depression found at 12 months (lower depression for intervention than control participants) would be sustained at 24 months and differences in quality in life, general mental and physical health and IPV would emerge.

Design: Cluster randomised controlled trial. Researchers blinded to allocation. Unit of randomisation: family doctors.

Setting: Fifty-two primary care clinics, Victoria, Australia.

Participants: Baseline: 272 English-speaking, female patients (intervention n=137, doctors=35; control n=135, doctors=37), who screened positive for fear of partner in past 12 months. Twenty-four-month response rates: intervention 59% (81/137), control 63% (85/135).

Interventions: Intervention doctors received training to deliver brief, woman-centred counselling. Intervention patients were invited to receive this counselling (uptake rate: 49%). Control doctors received standard IPV information; delivered usual care.

Primary and secondary outcome measures: Twenty-four months primary outcomes: WHO Quality of Life-Bref dimensions, Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12) mental health.

Secondary outcomes: SF-12 physical health and caseness for depression and anxiety (Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale), post-traumatic stress disorder (Check List-Civilian), IPV (Composite Abuse Scale), physical symptoms (≥6 in last month). Data collected through postal survey. Mixed-effects regressions adjusted for location (rural/urban) and clustering.

Results: No differences detected between groups on quality of life (physical: 1.5, 95% CI -2.9 to 5.9; psychological: -0.2, 95% CI -4.8 to 4.4,; social: -1.4, 95% CI -8.2 to 5.4; environmental: -0.8, 95% CI -4.0 to 2.5), mental health status (-1.6, 95% CI -5.3 to 2.1) or secondary outcomes. Both groups improved on primary outcomes, IPV, anxiety.

Conclusions: Intervention was no more effective than usual care in improving 2-year quality of life, mental and physical health and IPV, despite differences in depression at 12 months. Future refinement and testing of type, duration and intensity of primary care IPV interventions is needed.

Trial registration number: ACTRN12608000032358.

Keywords: clinical trials; general medicine (see internal medicine); medical education & training; mental health; primary care.