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RCOG policy briefing: Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM)

News 31 October 2015

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM) commences from 31 October 2015. This is a new legal requirement in provision 75 ‘Duty to notify police of FGM’ in the Serious Crime Act 2015.

The Home Office has published a report to help health and social care professionals to understand their duties.

Information for members

RCOG members and trainees should be aware that it is the duty of all healthcare professionals to notify the police if a girl under 18 years of age discloses to them that they have had FGM or doctors/midwives have visual confirmation that the girl has had FGM. 

The number to call to make the report is 101, the police non-emergency crime number. 

Key points from the procedural guidance:

  • This is a personal duty of care and cannot be transferred to another professional
  • Compliance with this duty does not breach data protection laws or patient confidentiality
  • The reason for reporting directly to the police is because a crime has been committed

Other points:

  • It is good practice to ensure that the report is made by the end of the next working day.
  • If in doubt, speak to your local safeguarding lead.
  • If you have reason to believe that a report to the police poses an immediate risk to the girl (or another child), consult your colleagues and safeguarding lead.
  • You may be approached to undertake a genital examination by a referring GP. Only those with the appropriate training and competencies should be involved in undertaking these examinations.  
  • In young girls, it may be difficult to ascertain if FGM has taken place. Referral to a specialist paediatrician or paediatric gynaecologist with the appropriate experience is needed.
  • Under these new regulations, girls with genital piercings or tattoos (regarded as type 4 FGM under the current WHO classification) will also need to be reported to the police.
  • In women over 18 years of age, there is no duty to report. However, the usual safeguarding rules will apply.

Please note that failure to comply with the duty will result in referral of the doctor to the GMC.

Members should be aware that mandatory reporting is different to the mandatory recording of FGM. All trusts should have systems in place to record data about FGM.

Further actions

The Department of Health has published materials for healthcare professionals to support the roll-out of this duty, including:

  • Posters
  • Patient information leaflet
  • Presentation slides

Further information

Notes

For more information about the RCOG’s policy and public affairs activities, please contact us on policy@rcog.org.uk or +44 20 7772 6446.