Whitechapel Haven was one of the first rape crisis centres in the UK. This was flagship crisis centre that provided dedicated services to people who have been raped. They are technically called SARCs.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
SARCs are centres that provide a specialist medical and forensic service for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. These are a collaboration between the NHS and the Police to better facilitate the collection of forensic evidence to bring around more prosecutions and to maintain a register of pending rape cases on DNA evidence that can be used to bring prosecutions and chart and detect serial rape.
It is also a place where specialised and trained medical professionals can provide a sympathetic service including sexual health.
The SARC’s service is free to all. Anyone can walk in without any appointment. Men, Women, Minors.
The long term support is provided by the Rape Crisis Centre’s advocacy and counselling teams but for the short term these places are the go to place for victims of rape in the UK.
The SARC also offers medical services to those who are raped but DO NOT wish to report the assault. The SARC then offers to hold evidence under a doctor patient confidentiality until the victim wishes to place a charge. The idea is that victims can come forwards, get the help they need, see the evidence themselves and then decide whether or not they want to go through with it. This way the evidence does not vanish and women are more encouraged to come forwards and get seen at an earlier stage.
The earlier the medical visit, the greater the chance that the rape can be prosecuted since the age of evidence is so vital to getting a conviction.
Which is what makes the following story so screwed up.
Two staff members were fired from Whitechapel Haven after failing to submit 93 samples, storing evidence in the wrong type of container and mixing contaminated clothes with clean ones.
The NHS is retesting original samples to recreate the evidence but it’s evidence that the new system of cuts and reorganisation is harming services. When you make drastic changes including pointless cuts to a system that requires streamlining of resource usage rather than pointless cuts to service.
The difference is simple. Why spend money fixing problems when we can spend money preventing the problem from occurring. This is the difference between a tiny hole and a gaping one. The tiny hole is easier to fix than the gaping one and the NHS has been holed repeatedly by bad decision making. Funds are wasted on services that do not bring additional functionality when the base itself is rotten. It’s like building a skyscraper on marshmallow.
Let’s think of it sensibly. Why should we close A&E and Birth Centres when the problem is inefficiency? The closure of these won’t make the NHS less inefficient, all it does is maintain inefficiency over fewer places with less service. Why should we cut older nursing jobs when we have a staffing crisis and replace them with less qualified nurses? Why are we trying to balance our books with cuts to the base of the tree rather than the branches? This is a vital service and we are still looking at restructuring things like this.
Patients can choose their local hospitals! Yay for patient choice! That is Great! But what’s the damn point if their choice is stymied by closure of services, overworked staff and badly managed and incompetent support? Why the hell are we paying A&E staff such a pitiful amount and watching a massive drop out rate and indeed emigration rate when they should have first line salaries? Why on earth are we spending so much on NHS food? Why on earth is the cleaning and supply so inefficient?
The solution is simple. Make the base strong. The NHS did not soar on the wings of choice, but on providing the service. Fix the service and the choice will follow. We have become so fixated with “choice” that we completely forget about the basics.
I am willing to bet that this was due to either
1. Cuts causing the staff to improvise with what they have
2. Quotas to meet causing the staff to fudge the books to keep working
3. Staff cuts resulting in holes in staff coverage where such problems can occur.
This may just be two people trying their level best to keep working. We were forking over a £1000 or so per year per person. Nearly a third of what the USA spends. We are NOT inefficient, we are efficient, but we can do better by actually reviewing our expenses and looking at ways to make it efficient. By efficient I mean either do the same job at a lower cost or a better job at the same cost. Not “Stop Doing The Job”.
The Quota System is the death of the NHS.
The Whitechapel centre once stood for excellence. In 2009 it received an award for it’s work and it was widely considered a roaring success. It helped push through around 60 cases of rape to the judiciary a month. It was an amazing idea and one that would work if we didn’t force it to jump for the amusement of bureacrats and instead looked at goals.
The goal of a SARC is to provide the best healthcare, the most sympathetic ear, the best liason service between police and medical and victim. Not “Process 70 people a month”.
Because as of now? Whitechapel Haven was not a solution to rape but a problem because it was making it harder for victims to seek justice.