NHS ramps up support for survivors of FGM

Hundreds of survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) in London will be able to access expert care, support and treatment earlier thanks to a new network of NHS ‘one stop shop’ clinics being launched today.

More than 1,300 women over 18 across the country are expected to benefit from the highly specialised FGM support being rolled out to eight new centres across England as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Five of the eight clinics are in London.

Typically, the NHS is first able to identify and begin to offer support to survivors of FGM when they are pregnant, through maternity services. Over the last three months almost 1,000 women and girls across the country were identified as having been affected.

The new network of FGM support clinics – opening in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds – will aim to reach women before they are pregnant, providing those over the age of 18 with a range of services all under one roof.

They will be led by specialist doctors, midwives and nurses, and provide access to specially-trained counsellors for emotional support, as well as FGM Health Advocates for advice on accessing other services locally.

Gwen Kennedy, Director of Nursing Leadership & Quality and FGM Lead for the NHS in London said:

“FGM can causing lasting physical and psychological harm. These new services demonstrate the NHS’ commitment to helping those affected and preventing this harmful practice being forced upon more women and girls across London.

“Through working with survivors of FGM and their advocates, these services have been created to reflect their emotional, mental and physical needs. With specially trained staff at these clinics, the NHS in London is empowering women to ask questions about their own bodies and talk about any concerns they have.”

The five London clinics opening are located in:

  • Brent
  • Waltham Forest
  • Croydon
  • Hammersmith
  • Tower Hamlets

The launch of the clinics will be marked by Hilary Garratt, the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England and lead on safeguarding, who will officially open the new services in London this afternoon.

Hilary Garratt, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, said:

“These new NHS clinics will benefit hundreds of women who have suffered this most severe form of abuse and violence. These are clinics for women, run by women.

“We’ve listened closely to survivors and their advocates and designed these brand new services with them, meaning that these clinics, and the highly-trained staff who will work in it, represents a real step-change in the quality and timeliness of support the NHS provides.

“Survivors of FGM deserve to be heard and supported – and that is exactly what the NHS is working with them and others to achieve. Not only are we supporting individual women, but the impact this has on their families, communities and of equal importance, the next generation.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“I’ve been incredibly moved by the stories of girls and women who have been subjected to FGM, and am determined to do everything I can to support the survivors of this horrific act. FGM continues to devastate lives and it is vital the NHS does what it can to help.

“It’s absolutely crucial we reach more women so they can access support services that take care of mental, emotional, physical and clinical needs. These clinics will have a profound impact – helping women who have been violated in the most traumatic of ways to move on from this violence and lead happier, healthier lives.”

With highly trained clinicians and staff including FGM Health Advocates on hand to provide support, women accessing the walk-in clinics will be able to talk openly about their experience of FGM and discuss possible treatment options.

The clinics will also work with local community groups – including Women’s Health and Family Services, Manor Gardens (Dahlia Project), Forward, and AYDA Centre – to prevent future cases by seeking to change the culture and thinking around FGM.

This will include education on the medical and psychological impact of FGM as well as the legal implications of carrying out or participating in it.

Damage caused by FGM affects women differently and each woman’s care package will be tailored to their specific needs, with any women needing further support being referred to other specialist NHS services, local partner organisations and voluntary groups.

The eight new clinics represent the latest development in how the NHS is playing its part in supporting the victims of FGM as well as reducing the risk of there being more victims in the future. Find out more information about the FGM clinics.

If you are worried about a child, even if you’re unsure, contact charity NSPCC helpline to speak to a counsellor: call 0808 800 5000, email or fill in an online form

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, with no medical reason for this to be done. FGM is usually carried out on young girls between childhood and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. FGM illegal in the UK and is classed as child abuse, often leading to a lifetime of medical issues for women, including complications during childbirth. Find more information.