This is the time of year when young girls may be taken abroad for female genital mutilation (FGM). Vanessa Lodge, Chair of the national FGM steering group for NHS England, shares advice for preventing the abuse and supporting victims.
A great step forward has been taken in protecting those at risk of female genital mutilation.
The NSPCC’s FGM helpline practitioners have recently received additional training to provide an enhanced service for NHS staff to discuss any questions or concerns they have about FGM and what action to take.
The initiative has been developed to support health professionals who are directly working with women and girls that may be at risk or have been victims of FGM, with a dedicated 24/7 team of advisors who can discuss the often complex circumstances surrounding cases of FGM.
A tripartite of the Department of Health, NHS England and the NSPCC has seen them join forces on this initiative to support health practitioners in seeking the information and advice they need to tackle FGM. The training enables the helpline staff to work with nurses and other clinicians better, answer their questions, and give informed and tailored advice on how healthcare professionals should respond and care.
The training was delivered by experienced specialist healthcare practitioners, one a midwife, the other a nurse and trained counsellor. Many of the staff behind the helpline are clinical practitioners or ex-practitioners, whose skills have been enhanced by the training.
The NHS reported in February 2015 that 2,600 cases of FGM were treated in six months. The tripartite is working to ensure that all health professionals with patient contact feel supported and are confident about the appropriate action to take to prevent this abuse and to support victims.
In busy clinical environments, dealing with a sensitive, upsetting and unfamiliar situation, healthcare staff often face difficult dilemmas. By calling the helpline they can talk through concerns, clarify risks and seek advice on action.
Together, NHS England, the NSPCC and the Department of Health are working hard to help healthcare professionals reach victims of this terrible scourge.
Vanessa qualified in 1983 as a general nurse, and worked for 15 years clinically in acute hospital settings, with particular interest and training in cardiac nursing.
This was followed by roles in Senior Nurse Management, general management and commissioning roles; including a period of time working for the NHS modernisation agency as part of the national team to embed redesign principles in health services.
Vanessa moved to London in 2009 to work for Tower Hamlets PCT in quality and clinical governance. Over the following years the role broadened and the PCT worked in a cluster arrangement with inner and outer North East London PCTs until the reorganisation of health service commissioning arrangements in March 2013.
Her current role of includes within its portfolio adult and child safeguarding as well as continuing health care across London.
Vanessa represents London on the national forum for NHS England and has a particular interest in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), where she represents health services on the Metropolitan Police Steering Group, and chairs the London and NHS England groups.