Forensic examination services

Improving experience of evidence taking in sexual assault crimes.

An expert group will meet for the first time today to look at how to improve and transform the clinical experience of all victims after reporting sexual assault.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood will lead the Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault to tackle the variation in services offered in different parts of Scotland.

Dr Calderwood said:

“Having to undergo a forensic examination is always going to be a difficult and stressful situation but we know we need to make improvements. The taskforce aims to ensure services are built around the patient and available across Scotland.

“We are fortunate to be supported by the police, courts service and Rape Crisis Scotland and I will be meeting survivors of sex crimes to hear their experiences directly to ensure the improvements and guidance we produce reflects what they say is important.

“While I do not underestimate the scale of the task, we are not starting from scratch. There are dedicated and motivated professionals in health, justice and our other partners and together we can reshape services to offer a consistent, sympathetic and professional approach to people in their darkest hours.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“The current provision within the NHS in Scotland for victims of rape or sexual assault is not satisfactory. We want anyone who has been the victim of such dreadful crimes to have the confidence to come forward knowing they will be supported by justice and health services that fully recognise their needs and make it as easy as possible to start the difficult journey of recovery ahead.

“We have worked closely with Rape Crisis Scotland, NHS Education Scotland, Police Scotland and the Crown Office to better understand why progress to develop these services has been slow and I’m pleased Dr Calderwood and her team will be exploring these issues to identify solutions that improve the experience for all survivors.”

Sandy Brindley, National Coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, added:

“Significant improvements are required in how we respond to rape survivors in Scotland. We are very pleased to be involved in this group, which we believe has the potential to make a real difference to the experiences of women and men across Scotland who have experienced the trauma of rape.”


Announcing the appointment of Dr Calderwood to lead the group last month, Michael Matheson outlined three priorities to be considered:

  • reducing unnecessary delays;
  • addressing situations where victims must travel unreasonable distances to be examined, and;
  • the availability of female medical professionals in forensic examination services.

Details of the areas that the Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault  will consider and the membership are available online.

A survey by NHS Education Scotland and the Scottish Government of female doctors to find out perceived barriers to undertaking forensic examinations for victims took place in February. Responses are being analysed.


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