Sexual assault victims are step closer to self-referral for forensic medical exams
Victims of rape and sexual assault across Scotland are a step closer to being able to use forensic medical examination services without first having to report a crime.
The Forensic Medical Services Bill will enable victims to access healthcare and refer themselves for a forensic medical examination without having to go to the police.
The Bill, which passed Stage 1 of the parliamentary process, introduces clear legal responsibilities for health boards to provide victims with direct access to forensic medical examination services and to retain certain evidence.
Additional funding of £50,000 has also been announced for 20 priority places on a new Postgraduate Qualification course for nurse sexual offence examiners at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, which begins in January 2021.
This is the first qualification of its kind in Scotland and could help pave the way for nurses undertaking the role of sexual offence examiner in future.
Last November, the Scottish Government announced £200,000 for a related initiative for appropriately qualified and experienced nurses to undertake forensic medical examinations of victims of sexual crime and give evidence in court, something only doctors can currently do.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am very pleased to announce this additional funding to support work already underway to develop the role of nurse sexual offence examiners in Scotland. Our ambition is to create a multi-disciplinary workforce for the future which is vital to supporting the sustainability of forensic medical examination services, particularly in rural and island communities.
“The Forensic Medical Services Bill ensures the choice to self-refer for examination 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.”
Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “Having access to this qualification in Scotland supports our ambition to enhance the patient experience through the provision of high quality, person-centred and trauma informed care.”