Each quarter, the HDR UK Impact Committee consider dozens of articles and select the most impactful examples, ranked against core pillars of the HDR UK ethos: research quality, team science, scale, open science, patient and public involvement, patient impact and diversity.

One of the papers selected by the committee was ‘Insights from linking police domestic abuse data and health data in South Wales, UK: a linked routine data analysis using decision tree classification’ by Kennedy et al.

The challenge

People who experience domestic abuse can suffer long-term negative impacts on both their physical and mental wellbeing. Data relating to this domestic abuse is usually reviewed by the Force Public Protection unit to assess risk and determine what the next steps might be. Although this data is collected, the knowledge is not communicated between agencies at a national level, which means robust safeguarding measures may not always be put in place.

With infrastructure support from HDR UK, this study links data from the Police for residents across South Wales, UK, and victims’ health records. The researchers formed a cohort of residents in South Wales Police Force Region who were domestic abuse victims between August 2015 and March 2020. These anonymised data were then linked to multiple healthcare datasets including hospital and GP records. The datasets were securely linked and analysed within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank. Interested parties can apply to the SAIL databank for access and contact the corresponding author once access has been approved.

The authors then identified the risk of experiencing certain outcomes after the domestic abuse incident, including attending the emergency department, emergency hospital admission, or death due to any causes within 12 months.

The impact

The results suggest we might be able to identify vulnerable individuals using healthcare services before they have a police call out for a domestic abuse incident. A particular strength of the study is that it demonstrates the value of linking data sources to provide insights that can be useful at a population level.

Linking data sources and using the data to provide population-level insights might help to reduce police callouts and future emergency department or hospital admissions. Overall, this could improve the outcomes for vulnerable individuals who are exposed to domestic abuse.

What the Impact Committee said

The HDR UK Impact Committee consider a range of criteria to score papers based on research impact. This study scored highly across all of the criteria with a few standout areas in particular. Multiple research teams were involved in the study, with researchers at various stages of their career, showing a commitment to establishing meaningful collaborations. The study also involved a large dataset of nearly 27,000 records of which 8709 participants were included in the final analysis. There was strong patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) with a named author as the PPIE advisor. Finally, the study has population-level, real-world implications for a particularly vulnerable group. Overall, the authors have conducted robust research with meaningful findings which will contribute to improving outcomes for this group.

Read the paper