Forensic medical services

Transforming the response for victims of sexual assault.

The current health and justice response for victims of rape and sexual assault in Scotland is to be transformed.

The commitment was made by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson as part of an update to parliament on the newly established Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault – led by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Catherine Calderwood.

Mr Matheson said:

“The need to treat victims of crime sensitively is never more acute than with those who are victims of a sexual offence.

“Many victims will be on a long journey of recovery which continues well beyond the conclusion of a court case. It is therefore crucial that the healthcare response is equipped to deliver the services they need.  Often this begins with the forensic medical examination.

“Ministers have empowered the Taskforce, through the CMO’s leadership, to be bold in looking at different models of service and to ensure delivery relevant to each location.

“Rape Crisis Scotland will be part of the group and the CMO will publish the Taskforce’s work plan after the summer to clearly communicate how work will be driven forward.”



The Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault will meet again in June and Scottish Ministers will be receiving bi-annual progress reports. It has established five working groups to look at:

    • Workforce planning
    • Regional delivery of services
    • Clinical Pathways
    • Quality improvement
  • Premises and Infrastructure.

The taskforce will work alongside Healthcare Improvement Scotland who will be undertaking a Scotland-wide consultation on new standards for forensic examinations for victims of sexual assault throughout the summer. Responses will help shape the Taskforce’s work plan and ensure that views from across Scotland, including remote and island communities, are fully considered as work moves forward. National Standards will be published by the end of the year.

NHS Education Scotland and the Scottish Government issued a survey in February on barriers to women doctors working in services which provide forensic examinations to victims of sexual assault , recognising many women who have experienced assault would prefer not to be examined by a man. More than 800 responses were received and are currently being analysed with 53 per cent of respondents saying they would, in principle, be interested to work to provide forensic examinations for victims of sexual crime. A number of female doctors proactively followed up the survey requesting further information about how they could get involved.



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