Report on Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) policy review process launched by Minister for Health
Minister Harris publishes policy review of the Sexual Assault Treatment Units and commits additional €0.5 million to fund recommendations
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, today published the actions of a policy review of the National Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) service and has committed an additional €0.5m to fund them this year. The Irish Student Health Association are delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to have participated in this policy review process, through providing feedback from our members on their experiences of caring for and supporting 3rd level students who have been victims of sexual violence, and on their interaction with local SATU services around the country.
The ten actions proposed in the report aim to strengthen the health service provided to victims of sexual assault and will be implemented over the next two years. The actions include:
• Increasing and ring-fencing the SATU budget by 25%
• Developing robust national oversight of this critical area of health service delivery
• Supporting a more sustainable SATU workforce to ensure excellent care for vulnerable patients
• Expanding the SATU service so that the longer-term emotional and social needs of patients, as well as their immediate medical and forensic needs are looked after.
Publishing the Review, the Minister said: "I'm so proud today that following an accelerated Policy Review led by my officials – the first of its kind – we will be taking a major step forward in enhancing the service provided to patients and the supports provided to staff working in this difficult area".
He added: "The Review seeks to ensure a coordinated national health response to sexual assault. I am pleased to announce an additional €0.5 million in funding for the SATU service in 2019 so that this much-needed work can begin immediately"
A dedicated Joint DoH/HSE Review Implementation Team will be established immediately to implement the actions arising from the review. It will report back to Minister Harris on progress within six months.
The Minister concluded: "These aren't easy issues to talk about. And these aren't easy things to change - the levels of cooperation, coordination and collaboration we need alone are significant. But we need to start by deciding that every step we take together in the name of supporting patients better is worthwhile.....now let's make it happen!"
Dr Maeve Eogan, The National Medical Director of SATU said: "Patients are always at the centre of our service and staff's minds and we continually strive to do our best for them. This has not always been an easy task due staff shortages and increasing demands. The actions set out in this review will support us better in ensuring we continue to provide a high-quality service to patients as close to home as possible."
She continued: "We don't want anyone to need our service, but if they do, they can be assured that they will have the support of committed, compassionate and expert professionals in their nearest SATU."
The six SATUs provide 24/7 medical and psychological care to victims of sexual assault, 365 days a year, working in close collaboration with the Rape Crisis Centres and An Garda Síochána. Many of those who present at SATUs are young people: 50% are under 25 years of age.
Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, who attended today's launch, said: "I congratulate the Minister for Health on this policy review and the focus it brings to our national response to sexual assault. Education is fundamental to the prevention of sexual violence. That is why I have placed such strong policy emphasis on improving the awareness of sexual consent among third level students."
Patient Support Information for anyone affected by Sexual Assault:
Support is available from the Rape Crisis Centres National 24-hour helpline every day of the year on 1800778888. This phone line offers a free, confidential listening and support service for women and men who have been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or sexually abused at any time in their lives.
Further information on free of charge services provided through the Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) in Dublin, Mullingar, Galway, Waterford, Cork and Donegal is available through www.hse.ie/satu
Current SATU Service details and proposed improvements following policy review process:
• There are 6 SATU units nationally providing a 24/7 service, 365 days a year.
• They aim to provide a service to victims of sexual assault nationally within three hours of first contact.
• All of these units provide a very good service to people who have been the victims of sexual assault.
• Each Unit is staffed night and day by expert professionals qualified in forensic examination – a group who demonstrate extreme dedication and commitment to their patients.
• An additional 9 Forensic Nurse Examiners will start working in the service in the Autumn after completing training. This will increase the number of FNEs from 6 to 15.
• Funding is being provided for 2 additional Forensic Medical Examiner training programmes.
• Data on the incidence of sexual violence is limited, but we do know that the reporting to SATUs is increasing. There were 941 presentations to SATU in 2018 and there has been an average annual increase of approx. 11% over the last 4 years.
• The service is based on patient empowerment, consent and choice – for example, patients can now choose to store evidence for up to a year while they decide if they want to report the offence to An Garda Síochána.
• There are very strong working relationships between SATUs, An Garda Síochána and the Rape Crisis Centres nationwide.
• There are 10 Actions arising from the review as follows:
1. Increase and ring-fence baseline funding for SATUs nationally by 25%.
2. Create a National SATU Service Network, supported by a National Management Team.
3. Resource a minimum day-time, team-based staffing model for each SATU.
4. Create a rapid responder 'on-call' rota so that forensic examiners can travel to support patients in their local unit.
5. Roll out more frequent, flexible, modular, and inter-professional training to build a sustainable pipeline of qualified staff.
6. Recognise the challenge of the working environment by introducing high quality emotional supports for all staff (core and on-call).
7. Improve oversight and quality assurance by introducing mandatory clinical supervision for all core and on-call staff.
8. Expand the scope of service to include patient liaison and the coordination of medium-term after-care for patients.
9. Communicate the role of and support available through SATUs more routinely and effectively.
10. Convene a Sexual Assault Services Management Group of senior operational decision makers from different sectors to improve patient experiences and outcome.