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HMGovApril 4 2016

Statutory guidance on female genital mutilation has been issued setting out responsibilities for professionals involved in safeguarding and supporting women and girls affected by FGM.

The multi-agency guidance is applicable in England and Wales and is intended for a range of professionals. These include those working in the NHS or as independent service providers, local authorities and district councils, the police, and educational establishments.

“Professionals working in these organisations and who undertake these duties are responsible for ensuring that they fulfil their role and responsibilities in a manner consistent with the statutory duties of their employer,” it says. It replaces the guidance issued in 2014, ‘Female genital mutilation: guidelines to protect children and women’.

The new guidance notes that the FGM Enhanced Dataset Information Standard “instructs NHS acute and mental health trusts and GP practices on how they should submit data about patients who have FGM to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).”

Among the recommendations are that professionals need to be able to broach the subject. “Good communication is essential when talking to individuals who have had FGM, may be at risk of FGM, or are affected by the practice,” it says.
“Professionals should ensure that they enquire sensitively about FGM. The topic of FGM may arise in a variety of settings, including a GP’s surgery as part of a medical consultation, a home environment during a health visitor’s post-natal visit, or at school.

“Conversations may take place with the girl or woman who may be affected by FGM, a parent or other family member. How the conversation is opened and the language used will vary according to the setting and who the conversation is with, however, the key principles set out below should apply in all cases.”

It also notes that talking about FGM can be difficult and upsetting, so professionals may wish to speak with their supervisor if they are affected by what they have heard.

The guidance includes information on the FGM Risk Indication System in the NHS in England. This is a national IT system for health that allows clinicians across England to note on a girl’s record within the NHS Summary Care Record application that they are potentially at risk of FGM.

“Authorised health professionals with the relevant security permissions on their NHS Smartcard are able to access the FGM Risk Indication System. The main groups of health professionals who use the system to add or view information are those most likely to observe and identify the warning signs associated with the potential risk of FGM. These are usually GPs, practices nurses, midwives, school nurses, safeguarding specialists and health visitors.”

Links:

HM Government statutory guidance online

‘Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation’ document

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