England’s chief nursing officer has urged healthcare professionals to act to help prevent female genital mutilation (FGM).
In a blog to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, Professor Jane Cummings highlighted the responsibilities of NHS staff in reporting and working to end “this harmful abuse”.
“FGM is child abuse and sharing information with the police about abuse is essential”
“I know the NHS has the skill and sensitivity to take forward this work and make a real impact in meeting the needs of women who have had FGM, and safeguarding to protect young girls from harm,” she wrote.
This meant healthcare professionals needed to understand their duties and should not be “afraid to ask questions”, said Professor Cummings, who also acknowledged the challenges involved in working with partners to tackle FGM.
“Across England, I hear about how hard teams are working to make sure that locally, pathways and policies are updated,” she wrote.
She added: “Starting your work to tackle FGM takes a significant effort but no one needs to re-invent safeguarding procedures. FGM is child abuse and sharing information with the police about abuse is essential.”
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She flagged up work in Newcastle to develop a robust local approach to tackling FGM and provide support to those affected.
This included developing local pathways to help professionals know what to do, when to share information and understand the full range of support services available from both formal healthcare and community groups.
The work, spearheaded by Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board, involved working closely with minority groups and also considered the training needs of staff.
“The working culture must be changed so it is understood that if, as a professional you have seen something which might indicate FGM, you act,” said Professor Cummings.
NHS professionals, including nurses, have a legal duty to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.
- Mandatory reporting of FGM cases comes into force
- New guidance advises clinicians on tackling FGM
- Updated RCN guidance on female genital mutilation
Professor Cummings said NHS England was working with police partners to get feedback as a result of every report made “so that there is ongoing learning”.
Meanwhile, as part of the FGM prevention programme, led by NHS England, new guidance on commissioning services for women and girls with FGM will be published in coming months.
The programme will also see the introduction of a “new safeguarding system”, and Professor Cummings said NHS England was also looking at a national training strategy “to ensure all staff know what to do if they come across FGM”.