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Nurses to train as forensic sexual offence examiners

Postgraduate qualification will help widen rape victims’ access to nursing care in Scotland
Picture of a woman viewed from behind who is addressing a panel of people, depicting an expert witness giving evidence

Nurse forensic examiner role, which is new to Scotland, will enable nurses there to give evidence in sexual assault cases

Nurses in Scotland will be able to train as forensic sexual offence examiners and give evidence in court cases by obtaining a new postgraduate qualification.

The Scottish government has allocated 50,000 to fund 20 places on the advanced clinical forensic practice programme, starting in January at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

The inital funding in year one means that nurses will receive a postgraduate certificate at master's level, but they can then go on to study for a postgraduate diploma in year two and a full masters

Nurse forensic examiner role, which is new to Scotland, will enable nurses there to give evidence in sexual assault cases

Picture of a woman viewed from behind who is addressing a panel of people, depicting an expert witness giving evidence
Nurses in Scotland, like their counterparts in England, will be able to examine self-referring
victims of sexual assault, and give evidence in any criminal proceedings Picture: iStock

Nurses in Scotland will be able to train as forensic sexual offence examiners and give evidence in court cases by obtaining a new postgraduate qualification.

The Scottish government has allocated £50,000 to fund 20 places on the advanced clinical forensic practice programme, starting in January at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

The inital funding in year one means that nurses will receive a postgraduate certificate at master's level, but they can then go on to study for a postgraduate diploma in year two and a full master’s degree in year three. 

Nurses in England can already conduct medical examinations of rape or sexual assault victims and be called on to give evidence in court.

In Scotland, however, only doctors are currently allowed to conduct these examinations and subsequently give evidence in court.

Picture shows the hands of a medic and a patient whose bruised wrist is being examined
The forensic examiner measures and
records any injuries, such as bruising 
Picture: iStock

The Forensic Medical Services Bill, which has passed the first stage of the legislative process in the Scottish parliament, will give people who have been raped or sexually assaulted access to forensic medical examination services without first having to go to the police to report a crime.

A multidisciplinary workforce will widen access for remote communities

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said the qualification is an important step forward for those subjected to sex crimes.

She said: ‘This progress towards developing the role of nurse sexual offence examiners in Scotland is very welcome and I commend the work of all of those who have been involved in driving it forward.

‘Enabling expert nurses to undertake forensic medical examinations and give evidence in court is vital for developing a multidisciplinary workforce. This will improve access for victims of sexual crime and support the provision of trauma-informed and person-centred care.’

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘Our ambition is to create a multidisciplinary workforce, which is vital to support the sustainability of forensic medical examination services, particularly in rural and island communities.’


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