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22 January, 2016

Joint statement on the availability of forensic paediatric health services in North Yorkshire for children who have been the victim of a sexual assault

Joint statement on the availability of forensic paediatric health services in North Yorkshire for children who have been the victim of a sexual assault, from: 

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire 

Nick Frost, Independent Chair of the North Yorkshire Child Safeguarding Board 

Simon Westwood, Independent Chair of City of York Child Safeguarding Board

“We are very concerned about the shocking lack of forensic health services in North Yorkshire available to children who have suffered some of the worst crimes imaginable.  The services in question concern the most appalling crimes, sexual assault, against the most vulnerable people in society, children.

“At present, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust provides a four hour a day service from 12.00pm to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. This has been the case since 1st November 2015.  Not only is that service not comprehensive enough in theory, but in practice, even within the allocated hours, a service is not always available due to lack of trained staff.  We believe this situation to be completely unacceptable.

“We accept the Trust is working hard to provide a better service, and we thank individual doctors and practitioners for their dedication. The problems at hand can only be resolved by senior politicians in Westminster and senior officials at various NHS bodies, particularly NHS England.  They need to act.

“Even if the above (4 hour, five day a week) service is implemented fully, which we understand is not possible in the short to medium term, should a child be a victim of sexual assault at 5.00pm on Friday, they could wait 67 hours, almost three days, before seeing a trained doctor in North Yorkshire.

“There are services available outside North Yorkshire, but forcing vulnerable children, following a sexual assault, to travel over two hours to receive a service is intolerable.  There can also be evidential imperatives in collecting forensic samples following a sexual assault, and the further away the service, the more likely it is for key evidence to be lost.  On three occasions in November 2015, services were not available locally when needed.  The police, to their great credit, have ensured services for those children were received elsewhere, by either going outside the police force area or to the North Yorkshire adult Sexual Assault Referral Centre, neither of which should be necessary.

“As Chairs of the Local Safeguarding Children Boards, ensuring children are sufficiently protected in York and North Yorkshire, we thank the health professionals involved in the service for their efforts in improving the service, but know more can and should be done by those above them.

“Together, we feel compelled to write this statement to highlight this sorry state of affairs, and jointly call for this service to be improved and extended as a matter of urgency.”