University champions new standards to protect vulnerable patient

Academics have welcomed the implementation of new minimum standards which apply to health professionals working in police custody and sexual assault settings.

Staffordshire University is currently the only HEI delivering the UKAFN ASET qualification which has been embedded in new Forensic Regulator guidance published in July (HO, 2016).

Concerns about deaths in police custody and harm to vulnerable patients prompted the Faculty of Forensic Medicine (FFLM), the UK Association of Forensic Nurses (UKAFN) and the College of Paramedics, to demand that all healthcare professionals working in police custody and sexual assault settings possess professionally recognised qualifications.

It was similar concerns that prompted Staffordshire University to introduce a Masters in Advanced Forensic Practice, which equips nurses and paramedics with the specialist skills needed to carry out a forensic examination of the alleged victims and perpetrators of sexual assault and of detainees in police custody – a role historically carried out by doctors. The Masters incorporates the UKAFN ASET certificate, the first qualification designed by nurses and paramedics for health professionals working in the specialism.

Marg Bannerman, Associate Professor in Enterprise and Education Development at Staffordshire University, said: “We now have clarity on what training nurses and paramedics practising in this setting should be undertaking and guidance for service providers on how their training budgets should be best spent. We hope that nurses and paramedics will be supported to achieve these standards.”

Now UKAFN and FFLM have publicly agreed that the minimum competency standard for all nurses, paramedics and doctors working in the fields of general forensic medicine or sexual offence medicine, should be either the UKAFN Advanced Standards in Education and Training (ASET) or the Licentiate of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine (LFFLM).

President of UKAFN, Jennie Smith added: “We are delighted to see the ASET Qualification embedded in the Forensic Regulator’s Standards and feel that this important development will lead to improved levels of service. We look forward to

other HEIs following Staffordshire’s lead and developing dynamic courses with the UKAFN ASET embedded within them.”

President of the FFLM, Jason Payne-James says: “The FFLM warmly welcomes this initiative which reinforces the consensus approach of the clinical partners to define and introduce minimum standards for all healthcare professionals working within the police custodial and sexual assault settings. Police and Crime Commissioners are all now aware of these minimum standards, of which Staffordshire University have also been keen champions. We hope that other HEIs will follow Staffordshire’s important initiative.”

Jaqui Lindridge, a Consultant Paramedic representing the College of Paramedics at the FFLM, added: “The College welcomes the introduction of robust minimum standards in this practice setting and shares the sentiment of our clinical partners in looking forward to the further development of programmes designed to support healthcare professionals in meeting these important standards.”