Securing excellence in commissioning sexual assault services

Thousands of victims of sex assault and rape in Britain every year are to get improved care and support under a new scheme being launched by NHS England.

Working with the police, crime commissioners, local authorities and public health and community safety groups, NHS England will support commissioners in delivering services that secure the best help for vulnerable sex crime victims.

Recent British Crime Surveys reveal how health and victim support workers face a massive undertaking:

  • 42,976 most serious sexual assaults were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2011/12. Most serious sexual offences comprise rape, sexual assault or sexual activity with children.
  • Of people aged 16-59 years surveyed in 2010/11, one in five women (19 per cent) and one in 5000 men (2 per cent) had experienced sexual violence or attempted sexual violence.
  • Only 11 per cent of rapes are reported to the police and 45 per cent of rape victims tell no-one about what they have suffered.

Kate Davies OBE, NHS England’s Head of Public Health, Armed Forces and their Families and Health & Justice explained: “Whoever you are, or wherever you are, NHS England is dedicated to ensuring that, as a victim, you will get safe, confidential and high quality support, health care and forensic examinations from a local Sexual Assault Referral Centre.

“We are working to improve and develop high quality provision on a 24 hour basis, 365 days of the year.”

NHS England’s new way of helping sex crime victims has been developed with, among others, the Department of Health, the Youth and Criminal Justice System, local NHS Offender Health Teams, as well as with the Home Office, the National Offender Management Service and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs).

There are 45 SARCs across England, Scotland and Wales, linked to police forces. The commissioning of SARCs is implemented across England with funding from the NHS, police, local authorities and the voluntary sector.

The new framework will drive up local improvements in the quality of services, improve the outcomes of the victims of sex assault and rape, as well as reducing health inequalities.

The plan will be delivered by four NHS England regional teams, supported by nine areas teams and London.

They will work within a national framework, aimed at driving up standards of care, reducing inconsistency and take duplication out of the system – thereby saving money.

As it launched its plans entitled ‘Securing Excellence in Commissioning Sexual Assault Services for People Who Experience Sexual Violence’, Director of Commissioning (Corporate) Ann Sutton explained: “This is a vital step forward in giving much needed and improved support across the entire country for the victims of sexual assault and rape.

“Many victims suffer long term health issues as a result of the crimes they have been subjected to. This plan will ensure better joined-up thinking among the various agencies who offer vital support.”

ACPO’s spokesman on rape, Martin Hewitt, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Specialist Crime and Operations for the Metropolitan Police, said: “ACPO welcomes the publication of this important document which will support the commissioning of a vital service to victims. The police service looks forward to engaging with NHS Commissioners and other key partners across the country to ensure that our victims receive the best possible service, consistently through the country.”

The needs of victims include dealing with the physical consequences of sexual violence or rape, a risk of pregnancy in five per cent of cases, the contraction of sexually transmitted infections and HIV and, for all victims, longer-term health issues such as increased rates of chronic illnesses, poor health and increased use of medical services.

The psychological consequences are linked to profound long-term health issues, with one-third of rape victims developing post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship problems, mental illness and longer-term psychological needs.

There is also increased risk of suicide for abused children when they reach their mid-twenties.

Supporting documents: Securing excellence in commissioning sexual assault services for people who experience sexual violence