Improving forensic medical examination services

£76,000 for new training developed for rural communities.

Doctors in Shetland will pilot a training programme in forensic medical examination services for victims of sexual crime.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed that NHS Education Scotland (NES) would receive £76,000 to review the training available, making it more accessible, and fund up to 50 places for doctors to complete the accredited course by 2018/19.

On a visit to attend Shetland’s multi-agency partnership to receive an update on progress to develop local services Mr Matheson met with one of 3 GPs to be among the first to take part in the remote training programme. The changes to the course should address some of the barriers preventing doctors pursuing forensic medical examination, creating a lack of female doctors and sometimes requiring victims having to travel to be examined.

NHS Shetland is also offering all staff dealing with victims of sexual assault access to training, including sexual health staff and police officers, so that each member of the team fully understands the process.

Mr Matheson met with Shetland Rape Crisis, NHS Shetland and members of the Shetland Domestic Abuse Partnership to discuss the impact the training could have.

He said:                                                                    

“It is vitally important that we do all we can to ensure that the process of gathering evidence of rape or sexual assault doesn’t cause more trauma to victims. I am pleased to hear first-hand the actions that NHS Shetland, Rape Crisis Scotland and others are taking to address a lack of provision in island communities.

“Making this training more accessible and this new funding for doctors to become qualified to carry out these examinations will mean that victims should no longer have to travel to the mainland for evidence to be taken. We also hope that it will encourage more female doctors throughout Scotland to come forward and become qualified to provide this service. As we learn from this pilot we can look at rolling this training out in more communities to ensure that services are improved across Scotland.

Professor Stewart Irvine, Medical Director of NHS Education for Scotland, added:

"Victims of rape and sexual abuse deserve the best possible care whether they are in urban or rural areas.  It is fundamentally important that no matter what part of Scotland we are dealing with, medical staff can have access to accredited, high-quality training.

"NHS Education for Scotland is delighted to work with NHS Shetland to test and develop the training that is available to rural staff. In addition to redesigning training for doctors, we are creating a lead clinical position to act as a champion and resource for newly trained forensic medical examiners, to support recruitment of more women to this area of work and to support improvements to how the training is promoted nationally."


  • In addition to redesigning training for doctors and nursing staff, NES is creating a clinical position to mentor trainees, look at how more women can be recruited and how the training is promoted.
  • The redesigned training programme follows a survey where 819 doctors provided their views about perceived barriers to becoming forensic medical examiners. Research had shown a lack of trained female forensic examiners in Scotland but this survey that more than half (55%) of female respondents were interested in working in this area in principle. [Link to the NES website.]
  • In March 2017 Mr Matheson announced the formation of the Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault. The group, under the leadership of Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer, will report to Ministers under 4 work streams: workforce planning; delivery of regional services, premises and infrastructure; clinical pathways and Quality improvement and.
  • The Taskforce will work in parallel with new National Standards being developed this year by Healthcare Improvement Scotland which are currently under consultation and expected to be published before the end of 2017. The draft standards for Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People who Have Experienced Rape, Sexual Assault or Child Sexual Abuse: Children, Young People and Adults are now available to download from the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website at the following link:,_maternal__child/programme_resources/sexual_assault_services.aspx


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