Scotland politics

Shetland to provide rape victim facilities

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Media captionScotland's Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the system for looking after women who are raped should be improved

Rape victims in Shetland will no longer have to travel to the mainland for forensic examinations, it has been confirmed.

The announcement came as Scotland's justice secretary pledged to "transform" the care given to women who are raped or sexually assaulted.

There has been concern over women in Orkney and Shetland having to travel to Aberdeen for examinations.

Charities said it has resulted in some victims not reporting attacks.

They have called for specialist facilities to be established in the Northern Isles.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson told Holyrood it was "utterly unacceptable" that women had to travel to the mainland for a forensic medical examination.

'Risen to challenge'

But he said NHS bosses on Shetland had now "risen to the challenge" and drawn up plans to provide examinations and compassionate medical health care for victims of rape and sexual assault.

He added: "We already have the service in place in the Western Isles and what we now need is the necessary clinical leadership within Orkney to make sure we have clinicians with the training to deliver the service on the Orkney Islands."

Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat MSPs for Orkney and Shetland, had raised the issue with the Scottish government.

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Image caption The government wants standards of forensic medical examinations to be the same throughout Scotland

Earlier this year, an independent watchdog strongly criticised the way victims of sexual assaults in Scotland were treated by police and the NHS.

The inspector of constabulary (HMICS) said services offered to some victims were "unacceptable" and lagged behind the rest of the UK, with many victims being examined in police stations.

Mr Matheson said it was unacceptable for women to go to police buildings for an examination.

'Gender balance'

He also said that while the majority of victims would prefer to be examined by a female doctor, the "current gender balance of doctors with the necessary training does not offer that choice".

There are currently only 19 female forensic physicians working in Scotland, he said.

But a national survey of 800 doctors earlier this year found more than half would "in principle" be interested in working in this area, with 17 doctors having requested information about how they can get involved.

He was speaking as he updated MSPs on a newly-created taskforce which is examining how services for victims of rape and sexual assault can be improved.

The taskforce is headed by Dr Catherine Calderwood, the country's chief medical officer.

Mr Matheson said the aim was to ensure that "whether you are in Orkney or whether you are in Glasgow, the standards that should be expected and delivered by the health board are the same."

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