Coming to a SARCS

Phoning the sexual assault self-referral phone service

You can phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 148 88 88. Calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

About the sexual assault self-referral phone service

A sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS) is a dedicated NHS service which is there to provide the healthcare and support you might need in the days after a rape or sexual assault.

If the rape or sexual assault happened in the last 7 days, it might be appropriate for you to have a forensic medical examination (FME) to collect evidence.

You can also be referred to other services, such as sexual health or counselling services.

What are SARCS?

A SARCS is a dedicated NHS service that provides a safe and welcoming healthcare environment for anyone who has recently experienced rape or sexual assault.

SARCS provide healthcare and support in the days after an assault. If appropriate you can also access an FME, which could gather evidence from your assault.

Any evidence taken will be stored securely within the SARCS to give you time to think about whether you want to report your assault to the police.

The SARCS is a healthcare service and is not part of the police or justice system, although evidence is stored securely in accordance with justice system requirements.

Where are SARCS?

Every health board is able to refer you to a SARCS. When an appointment is made the healthcare professional you speak to will always try to put you in touch with your closest SARCS, or the one that's most convenient for you.

What happens when you come to a SARCS?

If you're coming for an FME, you'll already have had an appointment arranged for you through the sexual assault self-referral phone service. You'll be able to speak to a healthcare professional at a SARCS as part of arranging the appointment.

Attendance at a SARCS is by appointment only to make sure you have the privacy you need.

When you arrive at the SARCS, there will be healthcare professionals waiting to welcome you and talk you through the FME process. You can ask any questions you want to when you meet them.

If you would like to request an examiner of the sex you feel most comfortable with, you can tell the healthcare professional looking after you and every effort will be made to meet this request.

SARCS facilities are trauma-informed services, which means everyone is trained in helping people who have been through traumatic experiences. This means you don't need to worry about anyone judging you when you arrive, even if you're upset, angry, or don't feel able to talk.

Remember that everyone working in these services will listen and are there to help you.

You can decide to stop your appointment or examination at any time.

Learn about what happens during an FME

Getting ready for a SARCS appointment

When you talk to a healthcare professional at the SARCS ahead of your FME appointment, they'll tell you what you need to bring with you.

Read about preserving and bringing evidence to your appointment

SARCS provide showers and toiletries if you'd like to use them after your examination. You can bring your own toiletries and clean clothes if you want to.

If you need clothing this can be provided, including basic underwear.

You'll be offered food and drink at your appointment, so if you need to take any medication you can bring that with you as well.

If there's anything else you'd like to bring with you to make the appointment more comfortable, like a blanket or pillow, that's fine.

Can I bring someone to my appointment?

When arranging your appointment you can ask if it would be possible to bring a trusted friend or relative with you to the SARCS. In some cases this won't be possible.

If you need an interpreter, please tell the healthcare professional when arranging your appointment and an interpreter will be arranged for you.

If you bring a friend or family member they won't be permitted to act as an interpreter for you.

If you would like to change your interpreter, that's fine - you can tell the SARCS team that you'd prefer someone else.

Informed consent and information you'll be given before your FME

Informed consent means that you have a full understanding of what's happening, and that you're able to stop the appointment or examination at any time.

Before your examination, the healthcare professional will tell you:

  • how the evidence will be used
  • when evidence can be passed to the police
  • what evidence the SARCS team can and cannot collect - for example, they can't keep photos you've taken or help you access CCTV footage
  • about your right to have the evidence destroyed or returned if you wish

You'll also be told about your options for making a police report, including information on:

  • how long evidence will be kept (this is called a retention period)
  • what happens towards the end of the retention period
  • what happens to your evidence if you choose to make a police report

Last updated:
01 April 2022