With more than 5,000 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) recorded in England over the past year, the Royal College of Midwifery (RCM) has called for ‘renewed focus’ on combating the practice.
A report from NHS Digital showed that almost half of the new cases involved women and girls living in London, while a third of the total were born in Somalia and 112 cases were UK-born nationals.
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The practice of FGM is illegal in the UK, with a jail sentence of up to 14 years, and is often spotted by midwives and nurses working in maternal and obstetric units. It was revealed that 123 NHS trusts and 74 GP practices submitted one or more FGM attendance record in the period of the report.
RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle said: ‘We are still seeing far too many cases of FGM and one case of FGM is still one case too many. While these statistics are very useful they become meaningless if we are not providing the services these women need.
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‘Too often we are seeing services being closed which means that many survivors of FGM cannot get the support they need. I remain concerned about the lack of access to community based FGM services, especially for non-pregnant women, many of whom may not necessarily access services within hospitals.
‘The government must also renew its focus in this area given the number of girls at risk of FGM in England, and all of us involved in ending FGM must not slacken our efforts.’
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FGM is spotted in most women during their adult life, having had procedures inflicted upon them as a child – often the mutilation takes place before they arrived in the UK. However, 139 girls under the age of 18 were recorded among the new cases in the past year.
Most of the cases involved women and girls born somewhere in Africa (88%), while 7% were born in Asia.
NHS Digital’s report covers cases spanning from April 2016 to March 2017.