What are women's experiences of the IRIS programme? A thematic analysis of free text quotations from service users for the year April 2018 - March 2019

Talk Code: 
Sophie Lloyd
Sophie Lloyd, Medina Johnson, Gene Feder, Natalia Lewis
Author institutions: 
Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol Centre for Academic Primary Care, IRISi


Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) is a general practise-based training support and referral programme aimed at women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse (DVA). The effectiveness associated with IRIS has been previously demonstrated in a randomised control trial (Feder et al. 2011). Since the trial, IRIS has been implemented in over 40 localities in England and Wales as of October 2019. IRISi is a social enterprise which was launched in 2017 to expand commissioning of IRIS across the UK. IRISi carries out annual national reports about IRIS implementation. Reports include a feedback questionnaire with free text comments completed by female patients referred to the IRIS programme. The aim of this student research project was to explore the experiences of the IRIS programme by women who had been referred to an IRIS advocate-educator from general practice.


We conducted descriptive and secondary thematic analysis (as outlined by Braun and Clark, 2006) of 166 free text comments from IRIS service users who completed a feedback form in the year April 2018 – March 2019. Comments were manually coded. First, we established whether comments were positive, negative, mixed positive and negative, or neutral/irrelevant. Comments classified as neutral/irrelevant were not included in further analysis. Second, we coded comments according to recurring words and topics. We developed 41 codes. Codes with similar meaning were then combined into 11 sub-themes and four themes. Following completion of the qualitative analysis, the frequency of comments per code and theme was calculated in order to identify which experiences were most common amongst service users.


Almost all service users described positive experiences of the IRIS service. There were only three out of 166 comments classified as negative, and one mixed comment identified in the primary coding. The main themes from the positive comments included: women felt supported by the IRIS service, women felt empowered as a result of IRIS, women felt that they and their children were safer as a result of IRIS and women had improved mental and/or physical health as a result of IRIS.


This research of female patients’ experiences suggests that IRIS is an effective and powerful mechanism for improving the lives of women who are victims of DVA. In particular, supporting and empowering women to bring about changes in order to increase their safety and improve health. Patient’s voices can play an important part in expanding IRIS; this study can be used alongside the IRIS National Report 2019 to demonstrate the positive impacts of IRIS on service users to commissioners and/or clinicians.

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Sophie Lloyd
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