CONTROVERSIAL health reforms have held up the creation of a new centre which will provide support to victims of sex crimes in York and North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed earlier this year that it planned to open a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in the Bishopthorpe area of York, the first of its kind in the city and county.

It will allow forensic evidence to be taken from those who have suffered rapes and sexual assaults and also offer crisis support, which the force says will help give victims who want to make a complaint added confidence, providing victims with a service tailored specifically to their needs.

But a report which will go before North Yorkshire Police Authority later this month has said preparations for the Government’s much-criticised shake-up of the NHS, which will see primary care trusts being replaced by clinical commissioning groups next year, has led to delays in the scheme, although the aim is for the York centre to become operational early next year.

The centre plans were outlined at a meeting of the authority in March, when it was confirmed that the police suite at Bishopthorpe would be the chosen location.

But the latest report by Det Supt Simon Mason said: “Since that time, progress has been slower than North Yorkshire Police would have liked, in that the considerable changes within health and its governance structures have slowed commissioning, funding contributions and ultimately implementation.”

However, he said health bosses had still shown a “commitment” to the project, with an initial funding contribution of £35,000 having been received, and the force was now “working to secure funding beyond the initial 12-month period”.

The process of finding a manager for the centre is also due to begin shortly.

The report said the benefits of the centre had been highlighted, although North Yorkshire Police had stressed funding was currently only in place for a year.