A midwife from London is calling for more support for women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).
The 6 February is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, an annual event coordinated by the United Nations.
To mark the awareness day, the government has announced a range of measures to combat the practice in the UK. For the first time, it will be mandatory for all NHS acute hospitals to provide information on patients who have undergone FGM.
Meanwhile, Denise Henry, a specialist perineal midwife at St George’s Hospital in London, is herself championing a number of initiatives across the south west of the capital.
These include a new booklet to educate GPs and practice nurses in the borough of Wandsworth about the harmful consequences of FGM, the law on genital cutting and how to report any incidents of FGM.
It also urges clinicians to ask all females from communities that traditionally practise FGM about their own experience of genital circumcision whenever routine patient history is taken.
“I’m extremely passionate about bringing FGM to the forefront of female clinical care,” said the midwife of 23 years. “Supporting GPs to identify victims of FGM and provide information, advice and support to these girls and women is vital and we hope our resources go a long way in assisting clinicians to do so.”
Back in December 2013, Denise launched a service that provides twice-monthly sessions to give support and advice to pregnant women facing serious health risks as a result of genital mutilation.
She hopes the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation and her new leaflet will encourage GPs and practice nurses to refer more victims of FGM, pregnant or not pregnant, for assessment and support at the clinic.
Meanwhile, a Scotland Yard officer has warned that doctors are failing to report suspected cases of FGM to the police.
Detective Superintendent Jason Ashwood, head of Scotland Yard’s FGM team, told The Times that young girls who are at risk of or are recovering from cutting are being let down because “professionals” in the public sector are not safeguarding children.
The latest figures suggest that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM and 23,000 girls under the age of 15 are “at risk”.
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