FGM Requirements for NHS Staff
Female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as female circumcision) (FGM) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice is illegal in the UK.
It has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. However, the true extent is unknown, due to the "hidden" nature of the crime.
The girls may be taken to their countries of origin so that FGM can be carried out during the summer holidays, allowing them time to "heal" before they return to school. There are also worries that some girls may have FGM performed in the UK.
Female genital mutilation is child abuse.
The Department of Health has issued guidance around current requirements on NHS staff in relation to FGM.
Following publication of the Data Standard on 2nd April 2014, it became mandatory for any NHS healthcare professional to record (write down) within a patient’s clinical record if they identify through the delivery of healthcare services that a woman or girl has had FGM. The requirement is to record FGM in a patient’s healthcare record only if and when it is identified during the delivery of any NHS healthcare.
The current procedure to follow is detailed in the document from the Department of Health (Dec 2014):
Children and vulnerable adults: If any child (under-18s) or vulnerable adult in your care has symptoms or signs of FGM, or if you have good reason to suspect they are at risk of FGM having considered their family history or other relevant factors, they must be referred using standard existing safeguarding procedures, as with all other instances of child abuse. This is initially often to the local Children’s Services or the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, though local arrangements may be in place. Additionally, when a patient is identified as being at risk of FGM, this information must be shared with the GP and health visitor as part of safeguarding actions (See section 47 of the 1989 Children Act).
Adults: There is no requirement for automatic referral of adult women with FGM to adult social services or the police. Healthcare professionals should be aware that a disclosure may be the first time that a woman has discussed her FGM with anyone. Referral to the police must not be introduced as an automatic response when identifying adult women with FGM, and each case must continue to be individually assessed. The healthcare professional should seek to support women by offering referral to community groups for support, clinical intervention or other services as appropriate, for example through an NHS FGM clinic. The wishes of the woman must be respected at all times. If she is pregnant, the welfare of her unborn child or others in her extended family must also be considered at this point as they are potentially at risk and action must be taken accordingly.
FGM Mandatory Reporting – Support pack for health professionals
The Department of Health, together with NHS E and professional bodies, have developed a package of support including:
- Quick guidance: a 2 page summary of the duty including a process flowchart
- Poster: a poster for health organisations to display about the duty
- Training slides: a training presentation organisations can use to help them deliver 10 – 15 minute updates to staff to explain the duty
- Video interviews with Vanessa Lodge, NHS E National FGM Prevention lead
An information leaflet for patients and their families which professionals can use to help when discussing making a report to the police.
The website for written materials is: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fgm-mandatory-reporting-in-healthcare
The video can also be found at www.nhs.uk/fgmguidelines
Free online training course https://www.fgmelearning.co.uk