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More than 5,000 new FGM cases reported in England

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has recorded 5,391 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the past year.

NHS Digital has released the second annual FGM figures for England.  It has shown almost half involved women and girls living in London, with a third being women and girls born in Somalia, while 112 cases were UK-born nationals.

Most of the cases were spotted by midwives and doctors working in maternity and obstetric units.

The practice is illegal in the UK, as it is in Australia. The UK has also legislated so it is compulsory for family doctors, hospitals and mental health trusts to report any new cases in their patients. Intentionally altering or injuring the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

The majority of cases originally had FGM done to them abroad and as a young child, however, 18 of the newly recorded cases that year took place in the UK.

Ms Meg Fassam-Wright, the acting director of the UK’s National FGM Centre, said it was important that the cases were being identified so the data could help provide a clearer picture of FGM in England.

“These are often cases of women who have had FGM a number of years ago and that their health needs and other needs are potentially being identified through the collection of this data, so we can plan for the future better because these women – some of them – will have long-term health problems as a result of FGM,” Ms Fassam-Wright said of the report.

Wendy Preston, the head of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, warned that the fall in the number of school nurses in recent years was detrimental to efforts to tackle the issue, and called on the government to attract and retain school nurses.

“The Government must act to attract and retain school nurses, to help address the problem at grassroots level, and maintain momentum in the fight to eradicate FGM,” she said.

The AMA has developed a position statement condemning FGM and noting that any medical practitioner who engages in the practice of any form of female genital mutilation is guilty of professional and criminal misconduct. 

The AMA also recognises the need for increased training and education for doctors in identifying and treating women and girls who have undergone FGM, and recommends the inclusion of FGM training in tertiary medical curricula. The position statement can be found at: position-statement/female-genital-mutilation-2017