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Improving access to healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assaults

silhouette-woman-profileImproving the access to NHS Scotland services for victims of sexual assault and rape is the subject of a Bill to be introduced into the Scottish Parliament.

We want to make sure that timely healthcare support, including a forensic medical examination, is available to victims of rape and sexual assault, and child sexual abuse, whether or not they have reported the crime to the police or are undecided about doing so. Forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences

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

“Sexual crimes are fundamentally abuses of power and about taking someone’s control – which is why it is so important and encouraging that this bill recognises and works to counter this by making sure that survivors are in control of procedures and processes around their evidence and property.

“Adopting a trauma-informed approach that focuses on the individual, on their needs and their health care is vital, and an important element of this is moving to using nurses as forensic examiners. This is a key development, and one which could make a huge difference.”

Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat, has welcomed the introduction of the Bill by the Scottish Government.

Liam McArthur said:

“For too long, victims of rape or sexual violence in Orkney and Shetland had no choice but to travel south for forensic examination, often adding to the trauma they already felt.  Not surprisingly, the prospect of this was enough to put some people off from coming forward in the first place.

“I therefore welcome the Forensic Medical Services Bill and its commitment to equal access across all health boards, including our islands.  The provision of support from the Taskforce to assist with creating and enhancing facilities to allow this to happen is also reassuring.  While some individuals may still prefer to access services elsewhere, for a variety of reasons, what is key is that this is a matter of choice.

“Hopefully, NHS Orkney working with local partners will now be able to build on the progress made to date so that we have a robust and sustainable local self-referral service in line with other parts of the country.”

£200,000 of funding will also go to developing  the role of nurse sexual offence examiner. At the moment only doctors can undertake this task which limits the availability of those able to perform it. The nurse sexual offence examiner role will enable examinations to take place where before it was more difficult to do so.

The new Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall has the forensic facilities whereas before victims of sexual crimes in Orkney had to travel to mainland Scotland before the examination could take place. An appalling and distressing situation for those who were already suffering.

Commenting on the SNP Government’s Bill, Robert Leslie, who is the SNP candidate for Orkney and Shetland in the General Election said:

robert leslie  SNP candidate“The recently established provision of forensics in the new Balfour is a critical and transformational local service for the survivors of rape and sexual assault. It has removed a huge barrier to reporting, where previously people who experienced rape and sexual assault had to travel south for forensic evidence to be taken. It is great testament to the tenacity of managers in both rape crisis services in the Northern Isles that it is happening.

“That the Bill will apply equally to all communities across Scotland is also thanks to the Scottish Government’s Island Act, and I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government committed to conducting an Island Communities Impact Assessment for the Bill, despite it not yet being a statutory requirement. This reflects the importance Scottish Ministers place on ensuring policies are responsive to the specific needs and challenges of Scotland’s island and rural communities.

“Michael Matheson, who pushed for the new forensics suite in the Balfour along with Maree Todd MSP, recognised that the immediate and long-term physical and psychological consequences of rape can be considerable, and that services needed to be focused on the needs of survivors. These politicians need to be applauded for their efforts.”

Robert  Leslie also welcomed the fact that the new legislation will mean that a victim of a sexual offence in rural or island communities will have the same legal rights to access NHS forensic medical services, as those in urban and mainland areas, irrespective of whether a police report has been made. The importance of ensuring equitable access to these services was a prevailing theme in responses to the Bill consultation, with 32 out of 53 respondents commenting on the challenges and opportunities that this presents.

Jeane Freeman June 2018Health Secretary in the Scottish Government, Jeane Freeman said:

“Improving access to healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assaults is central to our determination to provide sensitive support to those who need it.

“By ensuring the choice to self-refer is available consistently across Scotland, we hope that people who might currently be reluctant to make a police report are encouraged to access appropriate NHS services and get the support they need at a time of significant trauma.”

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


There are 6 candidates standing in the Orkney and Shetland Constituency to be held on Thursday 12th of December.

David Stephen Barnard, Independent

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Coilla Anne Drake, Scottish Labour Party

Jennifer Fairbairn, Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Robert Fraser Leslie. Scottish National Party (SNP)

Robert Watt Smith, The Brexit Party

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