MPs call for action over FGM recording failings
Thursday, September 15, 2016
There needs to be tough action against health professionals failing to record instances of female genital mutilation (FGM), an influential group of MPs has said.
An inquiry by the Commons home affairs select committee found evidence that NHS clinicians are sometimes failing to properly record information about FGM cases despite it being a mandatory requirement for more than a year.
To address this, the committee has called for NHS employers to take a "hard line" against clinicians ignoring the requirement, and for training to be commissioned on the harm resulting from FGM and the importance of recording incidences in areas where levels are below expectations.
The first-ever recorded figures for FGM, reported in July, showed that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 5,702 new cases in England.
However, the committee said much of the data submitted by professionals to the Health and Social Care Information Centre is incomplete, making it difficult to measure trends.
"We are not convinced that the present standard of recording meets the Home Office's expectation that it will lead to a better understanding of the scale of the crime taking place," the committee said in its report on developments in tackling FGM.
The report states this is one of the factors leading to a "lamentable record" on FGM prosecution - there has been only one FGM prosecution since 1985 and both defendants in that case were cleared last year.
"It is beyond belief that there still has not been a successful prosecution for an FGM offence since it was made illegal over 30 years ago," the report states.
"The failure to identify cases, to prosecute and to achieve convictions can only have negative consequences for those who are brave enough to come forward to highlight this crime."
The committee has also found an absence of joined-up work between health, social care, education and law enforcement.
It states: "The multi-agency approach to tackling FGM has been hampered by the absence of a central authority to co-ordinate expertise, manage resources and adjust strategy when it is found to be failing."
It adds that there is evidence of duplication of efforts, and resources not being used effectively.
The committee recommends that the Home Office's FGM Unit takes the lead on government policy for safeguarding and eradicating FGM.
The committee also recommends that the UK learns from France's "excellent" record on securing prosecutions for FGM.
Children up to the age of six undergo regular medical check-ups in France, including examination of genitals. The checks are routine and are required in order to obtain state benefits, and girls identified as being at risk of FGM are examined every year and when they return home from abroad.
The report states there is a "strong case" for such a practice in the UK, and that it is likely to have resulted in a large number of successful prosecutions related to FGM in France.
"As improvements to risk assessment methods continue, there may be a stronger case for a system that requires health professionals to carry out regular medical checks when a girl is identified as being at high risk," the report states.
Last year, it became mandatory for all NHS acute healthcare trusts, mental health trusts and GPs to record cases of FGM.