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GPs asked to be vigilant during FGM 'cutting season'

The Department of Health has asked GPs to be extra vigilant for signs that girls are at risk of female genital mutilation during the coming weeks.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said summer school holidays are ‘not without good reason’ referred to as ‘cutting season’ by health campaigners, when many young girls are taken abroad to have the illegal procedure.

In a letter to frontline health professionals, she said signs to look out for included young girls attending for inoculations before travelling to countries with a high prevalence of FGM; young girls talking about returning home for ‘special’ rituals or ceremonies; or families planning absences from school, extending the length of the summer holidays.

Traditionally carried out by medically untrained women, without the aid of anaesthetics or antiseptics, the procedue often results in long-term physical and psychological health problems. The practice, most commonly performed on young girls between infancy and the age of 15 years, is illegal in the UK, a law that extends to cover girls being taken overseas to have FGM performed.

Ms Ellison said: ‘Frontline staff are crucial in identifying and protecting against FGM, so the NHS must be even more vigilant in the coming weeks and take every possible action to prevent this abhorrent practice.’

She added: ‘Please cascade this information amongst your staff and ensure they are fully aware of their responsibility to protect girls from this act, which is illegal in the UK and extends to cover girls taken overseas.’

GPs are reminded that an upcoming mandatory ‘reporting duty’ will need to see all cases in under-18s reported directly to the police, but the DH said current responsibilities for safeguarding against abuse means there is an opportunity to step in to prevent FGM taking place.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Put the G.P. name next to FGM. A named G.P. even.

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  • Surely the simplest solution would be to make airlines that travel to high risk countries do it. The public can sign a self declaration form stating they are not going for fgm purposes..

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  • John Glasspool

    Strange, how young boys can be circumcised on "Religious Grounds" on the NHS, with no one batting an eyelid. No one considers whether they will in the future follow the religion that demands it.

    I guess there is just too much of a can of worms to be opened here if someone actually tried to DO something about it. (Like say no boys could have circumcision till age 16 unless on strictly Medical grounds.)

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  • This is another ludicrous situation where GP's are meant to be the magic cure for all of society's ills. If FGM is so high on the agenda, why has no parent who inflicted it upon their child (by allowing it) ever been charged with an offence? The only court case ever in UK was of an obstetric registrar who repaired a woman's genitalia after childbirth, thereby 'redoing' the previous FGM. What a joke!

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  • Jane Ellison and her advisors have let their collective imaginations run away with them in regard to the FGM 'cutting season'. No doubt it's good propaganda for their moral campaigns.Where FGM/C still happens, I believe it's to children who grow up among FGM practicing communities, abroad, not to girls brought up in the UK. My recent work among immigrants and front line workers about the prevalence of this practice puts the issue in much needed perspective. http://www.shiftingsands.org.uk/fear-loathing-and-fgm/
    PS I'm now a former NHS Manager.

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