POLICE and senior council officials in North Yorkshire have launched a scathing attack on forensic paediatric health services in the county, which they say are failing children who become victims of sexual assault.
There is a “shocking” lack of health expertise on hand to exam young victims with the current 20 hours a week service proving “completely unacceptable”, and resulting in cases of children travelling for hours outside of the region for urgent attention, officials said - a scenario which occurred in three separate cases last November.
We believe this situation to be completely unacceptable.Statement from Julia Mulligan, Nick Frost and Simon Westwood
It is claimed that attempts to remedy the situation have led to no breakthrough so far, despite pressure on government ministers to act.
In a joint statement to expose the gulf in services, North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan, and Nick Frost, the independent chairman of the North Yorkshire Child Safeguarding Board and his counterpart Simon Westwood, independent chair of the City of York Child Safeguarding Board, said: “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.”
Since the start of November last year, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has provided a service from 12-4pm, Monday to Friday, but it is not possible for this service to be implemented fully in the short to medium term, the trio said in their statement.
They added that even with the service fully operational, a child who is the victim of sexual assault at 5pm on a Friday could be forced to wait 67 hours - almost three days - before seeing a trained doctor in North Yorkshire.
“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,” they said. “We believe this situation to be completely unacceptable.”
Mrs Mulligan has written to Health Minister Jane Ellison three times to raise the issue, as well as the Policing Minister Mike Penning and the Home Office, and she is expecting a response from the latter soon.
It is down to NHS England and MPs to act, the joint statement explained: “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.”
Forensic health services are available outside North Yorkshire, but forcing vulnerable young victims to travel over two hours to receive a service is “intolerable”, while the further away the service the more likely it is for key forensic evidence to be lost.”
The statement concluded: “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.”
The Yorkshire Post has asked NHS England and the Government for a response.