'Thousands' of FGM patients treated

Times Series: Health experts have warned the health and social care system is "failing" young girls at risk of FGM Health experts have warned the health and social care system is "failing" young girls at risk of FGM

Thousands of women have been treated in British hospitals after undergoing the barbaric act of female genital mutilation, figures suggest.

Since 2009, nearly 4,000 women and girls have been treated in London hospitals after undergoing the procedure.

New figures, obtained by BBC London, found that across 31 NHS hospital trusts in the capital, 3,939 FGM patients had been treated.

The data showed that Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust treated 1,146 FGM patients between 2009 and 2013.

St George's Healthcare NHS Trust cared for 795 patients, the BBC reported.

Ealing Hospital NHS Trust treated 633 patients, while The Whittington Health NHS Trust care for 493 patients.

Last year, health experts warned that the health and social care system was "failing" young girls who were at risk of FGM - which is classed as torture by the United Nations.

They said more needed to be done in the UK to safeguard young girls and babies at risk of the brutal procedure.

A report from experts from the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, human rights organisation Equality Now and union Unite, said there were "gaps in responsiveness" in the health and social care system to addressing FGM.

Officials did not know who to turn to if they suspected it had been carried out, and if a girl suspected to be at risk was referred to social services the issue may be dropped because some care workers did not feel as though FGM lay within their remit, the report said.

There was no accountability in performance of health and social care workers and a lack of consistent data about the issue, they found.

There have been no prosecutions for FGM, even though it has been banned in the UK since 1985.

In December, the Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into FGM.

Launching the inquiry, committee chair Keith Vaz, said: " It is shocking that 28 years on from female genital mutilation first being made a criminal offence, there has not yet been a successful prosecution in the UK.

"The committee's inquiry will seek to find out why this is the case, as well as considering what more needs to be done to protect at risk girls."

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said that tackling FGM was a "priority" for the Government.

"FGM is child abuse," she said.

"This is why, for the first time ever, we are making it mandatory for NHS acute hospitals to provide information on patients who have undergone FGM. This will be recorded centrally, helping to provide more information on the incidence and prevalence of FGM than ever before.

"In addition, the Department (of Health) is also working with NHS England, Health Education England and the Royal Colleges to develop materials and training to support NHS staff - including nurses - to better identify and support girls at risk of FGM and make referrals to the appropriate authorities."

Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "Good progress is being made by the police and across health services to stop this barbaric practice and the RCM has led way in its ground breaking recommendations urging that FGM be considered as child abuse, recorded and reported, while advocating for care and support for survivors.

"Tackling FGM requires that we adopt a coordinated systems approach in the UK across health, social services, education and the police. That way, there will be consistency in identifying and reporting FGM and provision of appropriate health care and psychological support for victims.

"The RCM is pleased that the DH will require all NHS Trusts to report on a monthly basis from September the number of patients newly identified to have FGM, and to specify whether these cases are adults or children and report on the number of deinfibulations (reversals) they do.

"This is in addition to instructing that all clinicians include and document FGM in their clinical notes from April. This will help us to understand the real scale of FGM in this country and to allow us protect girls at risk and support the women who have been forced to undergo this terrible infringement on the human rights.

"We need to bring into the equation the issue that girls who have undergone or are about to undergo FGM are often fearful of telling a teacher, midwife or other professional they come into contact with about this, because they fear the repercussions from their own family or community. This is a key aspect of demonstrating to girls at risk that we are serious about protecting them."

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