People who have experienced rape or sexual assault will received better medical and psychological support through funding announced today by the Scottish Government.

The first national standards for forensic medical examinations will be backed by £2.25m funding to help NHS boards achieve a consistent service across Scotland.

Published by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), the standards will ensure that victims – regardless of age, personal circumstances or geographical location – will experience a level of care to a high standard that aims to reduce the likelihood of further trauma.

Ministers have allocated £2m as part of the 2018-19 budget, on top of the £250,000 allocated from the 2017-18 budget, to support improvements in forensic medical examination services along with implementation of the new standards.

The new standards include:

  • providing the opportunity to request a female examiner;
  • treating individuals with privacy, dignity, respect and sensitivity;
  • providing a comfortable and welcoming setting for examinations;
  • talking through the process, including follow-up healthcare;
  • enabling and supporting the person having some control over the process.

A taskforce under Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood has among its early priorities to support health boards to have the equipment they need and to move any forensic medical examination facilities from police settings to health and social care settings.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson commented: "We know the immediate and long-term physical and psychological consequences of rape can be considerable and we are aware that current services for rape victims may not always be focused on their needs.

"These standards will ensure consistency in approach to healthcare and forensic medical services and will reinforce the high-quality care anyone should expect after experiencing rape or sexual assault. It is our ambition to ensure that person-centred care is provided across both the health and justice system for victims, and improving forensic medical examinations is an important step in this work.

"We are grateful to people for taking the time to provide their candid feedback when you would expect they would just want to put the whole experience behind them. We want them to know that we have listened and are putting in place actions to make a difference."

Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland added: "Rape is a crime which can have a significant and longlasting impact. The immediate response from agencies and the quality of help available can make a big difference to someone who has just been raped or sexually assaulted. The new standards released today have the potential to transform the support and care people receive after a rape or sexual assault. The funding to help implement the standards across the country is very welcome."

The announcement comes the day after an agreement was signed between Rape Crisis Centre and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service for victims to provide anonymous feedback of their experience with the justice system to help COPFS improve its services for victims. (Click here for report.)