Health service staff have been given guidance on domestic abuse because they are in "a unique position" to spot victims and help them.
Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said most abused women used the NHS at some point and staff had a "vital role" in identifying domestic violence.
New guidelines, entitled Responding to Domestic Abuse, offer advice on getting people to talk about their situation and how to spot signs of such abuse.
They also advise NHS employers on how to help workers who may be in difficulty at home.
The guidelines deal with the scale and impact of domestic abuse, how to spot when it is happening and what to do.
Mr Chisholm said he wanted to make sure women and children got the right help.
He said: "Health services may often be a women's only contact with
professionals who might recognise the signs of domestic abuse and intervene.
"The health service therefore has a vital role in identifying, assessing and
responding to domestic violence."
He said the guidelines would be "an invaluable tool" and NHS boards would
have to implement them locally.
They were prepared by a working group of NHS professionals and have been
approved by the National Group on Tackling Domestic Abuse, chaired by social
justice minister Margaret Curran.
The new guidance builds on guidelines available from the Royal Colleges
(medical and nursing), professional organisations and other sources.
Statistics show that in 2001 there were 700 incidents of domestic abuse per
100,000 people in Scotland with 353 people experiencing serious assault and 13
people being murdered by their partners.