Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has welcomed progress being made on the provision of local forensic services in island health boards.
The Forensic Medical Services Bill, which will ensure that all health boards provide forensic medical services to victims of rape or sexual assault, will be applied equally to urban and rural communities, according to the Island Impact Assessment.
Previously, adult victims of rape or sexual assault in Orkney often had to travel south for healthcare and forensic medical examination services. However, with support from the government’s Chief Medical Officer Taskforce, NHS Orkney will be able to develop sustainable on-island services.
Mr McArthur commented:
“For too long, victims of rape or sexual violence in Orkney and Shetland had no choice but to travel south for forensic examination, often adding to the trauma they already felt. Not surprisingly, the prospect of this was enough to put some people off from coming forward in the first place.
“Rape Crisis Orkney and others have rightly been highlighting the need to find ways of allowing examinations to take place. To their credit, successive Justice Ministers have responded positively since I first raised concerns with them over two years ago. Since then, a lot of work has been carried out by various organisations and individuals to finding solutions that work for island communities but respect the need for equal access to services.
“I therefore welcome the Forensic Medical Services Bill and its commitment to equal access across all health boards, including our islands. The provision of support from the Taskforce to assist with creating and enhancing facilities to allow this to happen is also reassuring. While some individuals may still prefer to access services elsewhere, for a variety of reasons, what is key is that this is a matter of choice.
“Hopefully, NHS Orkney working with local partners will now be able to build on the progress made to date so that we have a robust and sustainable local self-referral service in line with other parts of the country.”