Improving support for rape victims

£2.25 million to implement new forensic medical examination standards.

Services for people who have experienced rape or sexual assault are to be improved.

The first national standards for forensic medical examinations will be backed by £2.25 million funding to help NHS Boards implement them, ensuring 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.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“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.”

Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood chairs the Scottish Government Taskforce set up to provide the national leadership to support the improvement in healthcare and forensic medical services for people who have experienced rape and sexual assault. She said:

“This funding demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting NHS Boards to provide person-centred care.

“As set out in the Taskforce’s five year work plan, an early priority is 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.”

Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis Scotland, said:

“Rape is a crime which can have a significant and long lasting 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.”

Cliff Sharp, Medical Director for NHS Borders and Chair of the standards development group, said:

"Around 11% of adults in Scotland have experienced at least one form of sexual assault since the age of 16 and the NHS is responsible for delivering healthcare services for victims. However, not all offences are reported immediately after the incident and the physical and psychological consequences can be considerable.

“It is crucial that people have access to a range of health and psychological support services which meet their needs. The new standards will set the same high level of care for everyone, regardless of their geographical location, their personal circumstances, or age.”


The Scottish Government has allocated £2 million as part of the 2018/19 budget, on top of the £250,000 allocated from the 2017/18 budget to help drive immediate improvements in forensic medical examination services and to support the 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

Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People who have experienced Rape, Sexual Assault or Child Sexual Abuse: Children, Young People and Adults.


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