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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.