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Paediatric service at Devon and Cornwall Sexual Assault Referral Centres


From October 1st 2018, the structure of services available for children and young people who have, or may have been sexually assaulted will be changing. These changes are aimed at improving service provision and access to service for everyone across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The paediatric service

There will be a dedicated paediatric service based at Exeter SARC for children and young people up to their 18th birthday. This service will provide acute forensic medical assessments for children and young people from across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly following recent sexual assault. The service will also provide non-recent medical assessments for children and young people from Devon and Torbay following non-recent sexual assault.

There are local medical services for children and young people in Plymouth and Cornwall following non-recent sexual assault, with whom we will work closely to ensure all children and young people have access to the right medical care. Referrals for these services can still be made through the Single Point of Access, as detailed below.

The paediatric service will ensure that every referral for a child or young person is reviewed by the clinical team, to make sure that all health needs are addressed. They will consider a broad range of support services for children and ensure appropriate onward referrals to relevant services, including the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) service.

The forensic medical assessment

A forensic medical assessment includes considering the therapeutic needs of the child as well as collecting forensic evidence. The assessment may include:

  • An assessment of the child’s health and social background
  • A general examination, including checking the child’s ears, nose and throat, listening to their
    heart and lungs and examining their abdomen
  • Checking for any injuries on body surfaces as well as the genital and anal area (external examination only)
  • Discussing the risk of sexually transmitted infections and arranging testing when required
  • In girls, considering if emergency contraception (“the morning after pill”) is needed. This can be provided during the assessment
  • Collecting forensic samples, if appropriate
  • Providing reassurance to children/young people and their families
  • Providing onward referrals to support agencies, including the ISVA service

Many people worry about children having a forensic medical assessment; however it is well recognised that children, and their families, find the process to be a very positive and therapeutic experience. It allows them the chance to discuss any concerns they have, receive reassurance as appropriate and access any medical care they may need as a result of a sexual assault.

We understand that children/young people and their families may feel nervous about the assessment so we allow time for them to go at their own pace, providing a safe and supportive environment for them.

How do I refer a child?

The paediatric SARC service can be accessed via the Single Point of Access for Devon and Cornwall Sexual Assault Services. The single point of access will make referral into services simpler and quicker for any professional wishing to refer a child or young person into either SARC and/or ISVA services.

For any child or young person under the age of 18 years, if there are concerns about sexual assault, it is important that police and children’s social care are also aware of the concerns – please ensure appropriate referrals to these organisations have been made and strategy discussions have been held.

If a sexual assault has occurred in the last 10 days

If a sexual assault (or ongoing abuse) has occurred within the last 10 days you should telephone the paediatric service on 0300 303 4626 to discuss with a clinician whether a forensic medical examination may be required. If a forensic medical assessment is undertaken, we will always offer a referral to the ISVA service as part of our assessment.

If a sexual assault/abuse occurred more than 10 days ago

If a sexual assault (or most recent incident of sexual abuse) occurred more than 10 days ago, we recommend you refer to the paediatric service using the online referral form on the SARC website.

All referrals received will be reviewed by the paediatric service team to ensure that any medical needs are considered and addressed.

All online referrals will include a referral to the paediatric service, local health services if applicable and the ISVA service.

How do I access telephone advice?

If you would like to speak to a clinician to seek clinical or forensic advice, or to discuss whether a forensic or non-recent medical assessment may be required, please telephone 0300 303 4626. If you get an answering phone message, please leave a message to include your name and contact details and we will call you back as soon as possible.

How do I invite a Clinician to a Strategy Discussion?

If you would like to invite a clinician from the Paediatric Service to contribute to a strategy discussion, please call 0300 303 4626 (or email if planning a strategy discussion some time in advance of the meeting). The paediatric service can contribute to strategy discussions following recent sexual abuse for all children across Devon and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and following non-recent abuse for children from Devon and Torbay.

If you wish to invite a paediatrician to contribute towards a strategy discussion following non-recent sexual abuse/assault for a child from Cornwall or Plymouth, please contact local services:

If a referral is required following a strategy discussion, this should be made using the online referral form on the SARC website for all children across Devon and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

When is the Devon and Cornwall Paediatric Service available?

The paediatric service will be available for forensic medical assessments from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and from 10am to 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. However, outside of these times, there will be a dedicated 24-hour telephone line for professionals (for example, police, children’s social care and health professionals) seeking clinical and forensic advice. This will also ensure that there is always a member of the paediatric medical team available to contribute to strategy discussions.

More information about the paediatric service can be found on the SARC website.


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