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Improving care for victims and survivors of sexual assault

The Police and Crime Commissioners, the Police service and NHS England are working together to plan and buy Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) services in the South West of England

SARCs are a special service where victims and survivors of rape or sexual assault can receive immediate help and support.

These services will go live on 1st October 2018 and replace existing provision.

Why is this happening?
The contracts for the existing SARCs are coming to an end and so arrangements are being made to buy new services.  This is an opportunity to further improve services for adult and paediatric victims and survivors of sexual assault.  

Additional funding has been received for the new services and will be used to support SARCs that:

•         are victim/survivor focused
•         provide equality of access across the region
•         offer extended opening times
•         meet national quality and clinical standards
•         have caring, skilled and well-supported staff
•         offer better access to self-referrals
•         are based on fair and equitable funding
•         work in partnership with other sexual violence services, including counselling, sexual health and the criminal justice system (where appropriate).

What is being proposed?
The proposal is for adult SARCs to be located in Swindon, Gloucester, Bristol, Exeter and Truro. It is also proposed that there will be an adult SARC in Plymouth, which would operate as an acute response facility, opened up when needed, but not permanently staffed.

In relation to paediatric care, it is proposed that there are two centres of excellence in Exeter and Bristol, which would offer child sexual abuse care and expertise to children and young people across the South West.

This would be broadly the same as the current provision, but with the addition of a second paediatric service for Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.

What type of care will be provided?
Under the new proposals, SARCs would offer quality healthcare and forensic services on a single visit, following sexual assault. People can either refer themselves or be referred by another service or the police.
Patients would be offered a referral to therapeutic services and Independent Sexual Violence Advisers, who can provide support over a number of weeks, months or even years.  It is therefore intended that these services would be based locally to make ongoing access easier.

We are currently seeking views from a range of people and organisations to help inform the new SARC service. We have already talked extensively to users of these services and have further workshops and discussions planned. Service user representatives will be part of the group of people making the final decision about who provides SARCs in the future.

If you would like to get involved and have your say or if you have any questions, please email