Specialist service for young victims of rape and sexual assault may leave Brighton

A specialist centre providing medical and forensic services to rape victims may leave Brighton for Crawley.

The NHS is looking to move the sexual assault referral centre (SARC) based at Brighton General Hospital, in Elm Grove, which specialises in services for under-14s.

NHS England and the Sussex police and crime commissioner are recommissioning SARC services across the south east and want to consolidate them on a single site.

A report going before Brighton and Hove City Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee said that the under-14 service dealt with 10 to 15 children a year.

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In contrast, the over-14s service which is already based in Crawley sees 30 to 40 people a month.

All the current contracts for the referral centres – sometimes known as rape suites – are coming to an end.

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust has the contract in Brighton and Hove, and Mountain Healthcare, an independent provider, manages the service in Crawley and a number of other SARCs nationally.

The report to councillors said: “Commissioners have identified a best practice SARC model as a single site offering services for all ages.

“This has benefits in terms of the recruitment and retention of workforce and in terms of estates investment.

“The latter is important, as there are increasingly stringent accreditation demands on forensic evidence gathering by SARCs which will require additional estates investment. This would be more straightforward with a single-site model.

“Commissioners are, in consequence, proposing to adopt a single-site model for Sussex, with Crawley as the all-age SARC.

“Crawley is much the busier of the two current SARCs and the future viability of the Brighton SARC site is in any case uncertain given plans to redevelop the Brighton General Hospital site.”

Brighton General is earmarked to become housing, with a health hub to go on the former ambulance station site in Elm Grove.

The health hub would include a GP surgery and pharmacy, along with existing services for mental health, podiatry and early parenting.

The report said that moving the SARC to a single site would result in longer travel times for some people – but, Sussex-wide, the impact would be “neutral” as the longer travel times for some people would be balanced by shorter journeys for others.

It said: “The number of people negatively affected will be very small as there are very few referrals to the under-14 services and the impact will not be very significant as Crawley is relatively close to Brighton and Hove.

“NHS England has confirmed that people travelling from Brighton and Hove to the SARC can have their travel costs reimbursed.”

NHS England is carrying out a four-week consultation which is due to end on Friday (8 October).

The council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4pm next Wednesday (13 October). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

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