04/06/2018 10:38 BST

Victims Of Sexual Assault To Receive 'Lifetime Of Mental Health Care' On NHS

'The physical and emotional impact of sexual crimes lasts a lifetime.'

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Victims of sexual assault will receive a lifetime of mental health care to help cope with trauma, NHS England has announced.

As part of a five-year strategy delivering a new package of sexual abuse and assault care across England, the NHS also plans to integrate sexual assault referral centres across community services – and improve support for men too. 

The announcement comes after health minister Jackie Doyle-Price visited senior NHS staff at The Haven, one of the health service’s leading sexual assault referral centres in London.

The Haven centre provides crucial support to sexual assault victims, while also obtaining forensic evidence so perpetrators can be caught and prosecuted.

When it first opened its doors in 2000 it catered to adults of all gender identities, but since – due to the demand for services – it has expanded to help adolescents and young children.

On visiting the centre, based at King’s College Hospital in south London, Kate Davies, NHS England Director of Sexual Assault Services, said: “The physical and emotional impact of sexual crimes lasts a lifetime, so it’s important that survivors can get the help they need, whenever they need it.

“Across England, the NHS is expanding care for people with mental ill health, whatever their condition, and our new guarantee of personal, joined-up and life-long care for those who have suffered sexual assault and abuse, will build on excellent progress to address a big gap in care,” she said. 

The new strategy has been developed with the help of sexual assault survivors and victims, alongside Government and charities.

The NHS said the strategy will mean a significant improvement of sexual assault and abuse health services, including: 

– Easier access to treatment centres for combined physical and mental health treatment.

– A commitment that any victim and survivor of sexual assault or abuse will get trauma care throughout their lifetime.

– Support and guidance for all community services to join up care and prevent victims falling through the gaps between organisations.

– Better access to information for the public on available services, how to access care and guidance to understand the long term impact of trauma. 

Dr Rebecca Adlington, a consultant at The Haven said: “We welcome this commitment to lifelong support for people affected by sexual violence. 

Rape and sexual assault can significantly impact on the health and wellbeing of an individual in both the short and longer term, affecting many aspects of daily life. The provision of specialist advice and mental health support is key to supporting recovery.”

In the year ending September 2017, police recorded 138,045 sexual offences, the highest figure on record. It is estimated that up to 80% of incidents are unreported and as few as 28% of victims talk to the police. 

Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price, said: “The scars left by sexual violence may not always be visible, but they can be profound and long lasting – it is my priority that we have the best possible support available for survivors.

“NHS England’s new sexual assault strategy and the commitment within it to provide care that is better signposted, more joined up and long lasting is essential so that all survivors can access the support they need for as long as they need it.

“The more confident survivors are that they will get the right care and treatment, the better.”