What is FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genital organs are deliberately cut or injured,
but where there is no medical reason for this to be done. It is very painful and dangerous
and can seriously harm women and girls’ health. Some girls die
from blood loss or infection as a direct result of the procedure.
Women who have had FGM may have mental health conditions as a
result, and are likely to have difficulty in giving birth.
FGM can be carried out on girls of all ages but may be more
common between the ages of 5 and 10. It can be known as female
circumcision, cutting or by other terms such as sunna, gudniin,
halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan among other names.
FGM causes serious harm to girls and women, including:
• constant pain
• repeated infections which can lead to infertility
• bleeding, cysts and abscesses
• problems passing urine or incontinence
• depression, flashbacks, self-harm
• labour/childbirth problems which can lead to death
FGM is illegal
FGM is illegal. It is child abuse and must never be carried out either
here or abroad. It is also illegal to arrange for your child to be taken
abroad for the procedure or help someone to carry out FGM in any
way. Anyone found guilty of this faces up to 14 years in prison and
may also be made to pay a fine.
Duty of health professionals to report abuse
against a girl under 18 – FGM
Your healthcare professional is obliged under the law to report
female genital mutilation (FGM) in a girl under 18.
This is no different from any other obligation on healthcare
professionals to report abuse against children. FGM is child abuse
so the healthcare professional must make a report to the police.
If a healthcare professional finds that a girl has had FGM, they will
tell you they are going to make a report and they will discuss what
this means for you. They may speak further with you depending on
When the police receive this information, they will speak with NHS
and children’s services professionals to determine what should be
done, given the circumstances of the individual case.
Please ask questions and let your healthcare professional know if
you require support or translation from an independent interpreter.
What help can you get?
If you have had FGM, you can get help and support from your GP or
other healthcare professionals.
If you are concerned about any girl who may be at risk of FGM,
tell a health professional or phone the NSPCC helpline 0800 028
3550, 24hrs a day.
If you are worried that you may be pressured by your family or
community to have FGM performed on your daughter, ask your GP,
health visitor or other healthcare professionals for help.
A girl is using another term which I think is FGM. Do I
need to report?
Yes. Whether she uses the term ‘FGM’ or any other term or
description, e.g. ‘sunna’ or ‘cut’, the duty applies.
Does the duty apply to professionals in private
Yes, if working as a regulated professional, the duty
Should you only report if you are certain that FGM has
been carried out?
Yes. When you see something which appears to show in
your opinion that a girl has FGM, you should make the
report. A formal diagnosis will be sought as part of the
subsequent multi-agency response.
I have identified a case but the patient is over 18, what
should I do?
The duty does not apply in this case. You should signpost
the woman to services offering support and advice. You
may also need to carry out a safeguarding risk assessment
considering children who may be at risk or have had FGM.
Some FGM is very difficult to notice. What if I did not
notice signs when I was caring for a patient who is later
dentified as having had FGM?
If an allegation of failure to report is made, all relevant
circumstances will be taken into account by the regulators,
ncluding your experience and what could reasonably have
I am treating a girl under 18 with a genital piercing /
tattoo. What should I do?
You should make a report.
How quickly should I make a report?
The safety of the girl or others at risk of harm is the priority.
You should report ASAP with the same urgency as for all
other safeguarding cases. If you believe reporting would lead
to risk of serious harm to the child or anyone else, contact
your designated safeguarding lead for advice; you may need
longer to take action, in exceptional circumstances.
Should I tell the girl / family about the report?
Yes, wherever possible you should explain why the report
is being made and what it means. If you believe reporting
would lead to risk of serious harm to the child or anyone
else, do not discuss it but instead contact your local
designated safeguarding lead for advice.
Following a risk assessment for a girl I’ve identified as
being at risk of FGM, it isn’t appropriate to refer to social
care at this point. What should I do?
You should share information about the potential risk and
your actions with your colleagues across health (GP,
school nurse and health visitor as a minimum) and discuss
next steps with your local safeguarding lead. A new system
to support these cases from January 2015 is the FGM Risk