National rape and sexual assault support service launched

A new national NHS service, which is to be implemented across all health boards, will allow those aged 16 and over to self-refer for a forensic health examination at a Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS), whether or not they wish to report to the police.

Funding of £11.7 million has been invested by the Scottish Government alongside the unanimous passing of Forensic Medical Services Act 2021 by Parliament. This money has gone towards creating healthcare facilities for examinations across all health boards, to recruit more specialist staff and set up a single point of contact for self-referral through NHS 24.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Gregor Smith said: “It is very important that everyone knows about this service and while I hope that people will never need to use it, for those that do, knowing where to turn for support and information is a vital part of giving them back control.

“This legislation marks an important step in ensuring that those who have experienced a sexual assault have access to healthcare and support, even if they don’t feel ready to report it to the police.

“The campaign will be running over the next few months to raise awareness of the Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS), to help improve the experience of those who have suffered a sexual crime.”

Healthcare Professional Video

Hazel Somerville from NHS Forth Valley introduces a dedicated national service that offers people a choice in healthcare and support after rape or sexual assault.

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland said: “This is a huge step forward in improving responses to rape in Scotland. Immediately following rape or sexual assault can be a really difficult time to make a decision about whether to report what has happened to the police, but there are time limits involved in being able to capture forensic evidence.

“Self-referral means that if someone doesn’t feel ready to make the decision about reporting they can ensure all the evidence is captured and make the decision when they are ready.”

Turn to SARCS

SARCS is a self-referral service, meaning that a GP or other healthcare professional referral is not needed; anyone over the age of 16 can self-refer. Across Scotland SARCS will help people with their immediate healthcare needs and can potentially gather forensic evidence (which will be kept for 26 months) in case they want to tell the police at a later date.

For more information, please visit the NHS Inform website at