Female genital mutilation: thousands of girls and women treated in London hospitals

The figures come after the Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into FGM in December 2013.

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The Independent Online

Almost 4,000 women have been treated in London for injuries caused by female genital mutilation (FGM) since 2009, it has been revealed.

Figures obtained by BBC London follow a report published by health experts last year that warned the UK’s health and social care system was “failing” young girls who were at risk of undergoing FGM – a practice classed as torture by the United Nations.

Of the 41 NHS hospital trusts in the capital, 31 responded to the BBC's Freedom of Information request. The statistics released show that 3,939 FGM patients had been treated in London, with the most at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust where 1,146 victims were seen by staff.

St George's Healthcare NHS Trust cared for 795 patients, the BBC reported.

Six of the girls treated were under the age of 18.

Ealing Hospital NHS Trust treated 633 patients, while The Whittington Health NHS Trust cared for 493 patients.

Dr Phoebe Abe, a GP in the west-London borough of Hillingdon, runs a free weekly FGM clinic where she is currently treating 60 women, eight of whom are under 17.

"These women have adhesions, vaginal infections, pelvic inflammatory infections, urine infections - for years they have been having this problems," she told the BBC.

The report from experts at the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, human rights organisation Equality Now and union Unite, said there were “gaps in responsiveness” in the health and social care system to addressing FGM.

It added that more needed to be done in the UK to safeguard young girls and babies at risk from the procedure.

Other problems it flagged up included officials not knowing who to tell if they suspected FGM had been carried out, and social services staff dropping the issue because they did not feel as though FGM lay within their remit.

There was no accountability in performance of health and social care workers and a lack of consistent data about the issue, it also warned.

There have been no prosecutions for FGM, even though it has been banned in the UK since 1985.

In December, the Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the practice.

Launching the inquiry, committee chair Keith Vaz, said: "It is shocking that 28 years on from female genital mutilation first being made a criminal offence, there has not yet been a successful prosecution in the UK.

"The committee's inquiry will seek to find out why this is the case, as well as considering what more needs to be done to protect at risk girls," he said.

Additional reporting by PA