Dr Fiona Straw, Consultant Community Paediatrician, Nottingham Children’s Hospital, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Clinical Lead, East Midlands Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Service (EMCYPSAS) will receive a special Supporting Award - which recognises outstanding achievements by people outside of the police service in helping to support victims or survivors of crime, in Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry’s dedicated section of the Nottinghamshire Police Awards.
Dr Straw began to campaign for forensic examinations to be taken out of police stations and into a more suitable environment with more support in place to help the wellbeing of the survivors.
After years of hard work and attempts to change perceptions, she gained support from NHS England, Nottingham Hospitals Charity and Police and Crime Commissioners from across the East Midlands for funding and resources for a new state-of-the-art regional facility at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
The East Midlands Children and Young People Sexual Assault Service (EMCYPSAS) opened for referrals on 1 April 2018. Thanks to a £281,600 grant from Nottingham Hospitals Charity a forensic suite was developed within the Nottingham Children’s Hospital, which opened its doors in July 2018. This meant young survivors of sexual violence could be examined in a child and young person friendly facility.
Children and young people attend the EMCYPSAS suite for a medical examination to document injuries, forensic sample collection (to identify the perpetrator), treatment to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and referral for therapeutic support.
During the Covid pandemic, new national funding became available and a second examination room was opened in April 2020.
And in July 2022, following additional funding from Nottingham Hospitals Charity and £60,000 from Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry’s Office, a new Video Recorded Interview (VRI) suite opened, allowing children to be interviewed by police in the hospital, in a safe space, rather than at a police station. The suite includes a family room, examination room, and interview rooms, and is based on the Barnahus - children’s house - model used in Iceland, where police interviews, medical examinations and child/family therapy is all in one place.
Since its introduction in 1998, the Barnahus model has delivered compelling results; three times the number of people charged, twice as many convictions, and better therapeutic outcomes for children and their families.
The suite, located at the Queen's Medical Centre, is managed by a dedicated team of 24 staff who cover a 24-hour rota. The facility is going from strength-to-strength, providing support for a growing number of children and young people from across the East Midlands, with referrals increasing by 25% in the last year alone.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire Caroline Henry said;
"Dr Fiona Straw has demonstrated total commitment over many long years to put better support in place for children and young people affected by sexual violence and abuse. It wasn’t that many years ago, when children and young people who had experienced these terrible crimes received little in the way of physical and mental health support.
"We now have an excellent paediatric sexual assault referral centre, or SARC, in Nottingham and I can honestly say that that wouldn’t have happened without Fiona, who lobbied commissioners, developed the service model in what was ultimately a successful bid, secured the hospital trust’s agreement and raised voluntary sector funding to pay for the capital work required.
"Our most vulnerable children and young people have greatly improved support locally because of Fiona and I am delighted to recognise that by presenting her with this award."
Dr Fiona Straw said; "It's fantastic to be recognised, I'm very touched.
"The real winners are hopefully the children and young people because people are now taking sexual violence against children more seriously. It is an important topic and we should all be talking about it.
"The service is here to help children and families who don't have a voice. The facilities available provide an environment that helps children to talk and open up, supporting emotional health and wellbeing.
"It's really important for people to know that they will be listened to, that support is available to them, and that sexual assault will not be tolerated.
“I am part of a big team of very passionate people, so the award is for them as well.”
Fiona will receive her award at the Nottinghamshire Police Awards evening, taking place on Tuesday 25 April.
For information about the East Midlands Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Service, please visit www.emcypsas.co.uk