Awareness raising of NHS rape and sexual assault service launched

From: Scottish Government
Published: Tue Apr 05 2022

Improving healthcare choices and support.

A marketing campaign has been launched to ensure people know about a dedicated national NHS service that offers choices in healthcare, forensic examination and support after a rape or sexual assault.

The national service, which is to be implemented across all health boards, will allow those aged 16 and over to self-refer for a forensic health examination at a Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS), whether or not they wish to report to the police.

Funding of 11.7 million has been invested by the Scottish Government alongside the unanimous passing of Forensic Medical Services Act 2021 by Parliament. This money has gone towards creating healthcare facilities for examinations across all health boards, to recruit more specialist staff and set up a single point of contact for self-referral through NHS 24.

The campaign which will run across digital channels and outdoor advertising sites encourages people who have experienced a sexual crime to visit the NHS Inform website for information to help them decide the best next step for them.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Gregor Smith yesterday said:

It is very important that everyone knows about this service and while I hope that people will never need to use it, for those that do, knowing where to turn for support and information is a vital part of giving them back control.

This legislation marks an important step in ensuring that those who have experienced a sexual assault have access to healthcare and support, even if they don't feel ready to report it to the police.

The campaign will be running over the next few months to raise awareness of the Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS), to help improve the experience of those who have suffered a sexual crime.

Jennifer Wilson, Nurse Director for NHS Ayrshire & Arran added:

Improving healthcare services for victims of sexual offences is a priority for NHS Ayrshire & Arran. We are committed to the Taskforce vision of consistent, person-centred, trauma-informed healthcare and forensic medical services and access to recovery, for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault in Scotland.

With the launch of the FMS Act and the National Self-Referral Service we can now offer local services to victims of sexual assault who require a Forensic Medical Examination (FME) and who do not wish to, or are not yet ready to report this to the Police.

This is a vital part of improving services for victims of sexual assault and making sure that timely healthcare support, including a forensic medical examination, is available to victims of rape and sexual assault in a way that is sensitive, compassionate and reduces the risk of any re-traumatisation.

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland yesterday said:

This is a huge step forward in improving responses to rape in Scotland. Immediately following rape or sexual assault can be a really difficult time to make a decision about whether to report what has happened to the police, but there are time limits involved in being able to capture forensic evidence. Self-referral means that if someone doesn't feel ready to make the decision about reporting they can ensure all the evidence is captured and make the decision when they are ready.

Company: Scottish Government

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