More than 5,000 new cases of female genital mutilation were recorded in England in the past year, down by about 10% from a year ago, according to official NHS figures.
Overall, in the past year a total of more than 9,000 women and girls were identified as having undergone FGM or requiring treatment for it, the NHS data revealed.
”FGM is child abuse…the number of women and girls subjected to it is not falling fast enough”
Despite the decrease, unions have said the number of girls and women subjected to FGM is not falling quickly enough and more should be done to tackle the issue.
This should include increasing the number of school nurses and community services available, they said.
Between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 5,391 new cases of FGM recorded by NHS trusts and GP practices, compared to 6,080 in the same period a year earlier, according to NHS Digital.
The total number of FGM cases was 9,179 compared to 9,223 a year earlier.
“The government must act to attract and retain school nurses, to help address the problem at grassroots level”
Among the new cases in this past year, 95% of the women and girls had undergone FGM before they were 18 years old, though the average age of attendance was 31 years old.
About half - 47% - of new cases of FGM were girls or women living in London, but 90% had it done in an African country.
Since 2015, there has been a legal requirement for health professionals in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in girls under the age of 18 to the police.
The NHS data does not include how many cases were reported to the police by nurses, but it does show which departments in the NHS recorded cases of FGM.
Midwifery services recorded the most (54%) cases of FGM – 2,934 – followed by obstetrics (1,780) and gynaecology services (284).
”Too often we are seeing services being closed which means that many survivors of FGM cannot get the support they need”
Wendy Preston, head of nursing practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “FGM is child abuse, and these statistics show that despite the rhetoric, the number of women and girls subjected to it is not falling fast enough”
“Mandatory reporting and compulsory sex and relationships education are important weapons in the fight against FGM, and school nurses play a vital role in both educating children and young women, and spotting those who may be at risk,” she said.
Yet recent figures show the number of school nurses had fallen 16% since 2010, largely due to government cuts to local authority health budgets, added Ms Preston.
“The government must act to attract and retain school nurses, to help address the problem at grassroots level, and maintain momentum in the fight to eradicate FGM,” she said.
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “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,” she added.