New duty for pharmacy professionals to report FGM

2 December 2015

All regulated health and social care professionals in England and Wales, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, now have a mandatory duty to report cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in girls under the age of 18

Under the new measure, as a pharmacy professional in England and Wales you must personally contact police if you learn from a girl that they have had FGM, or if you observe physical signs that a girl under the age of 18 has had FGM.

We have developed a factsheet, Female genital mutilation: mandatory duty for pharmacy professionals to report to help you understand when this new duty applies, and when to follow existing local safeguarding procedures – and how these obligations fit with our standards.

There is no specific legal duty to report FGM in Scotland, but pharmacy professionals still have safeguarding obligations under the standards of conduct, ethics and performance.

Making a report

If you need to report a suspected case of FGM, you should do this by calling 101. Best practice is to do this by close of business on the next working day.  You will need to give information about the patient, your contact details and those of your local safeguarding lead.

You can find more about how to report from the Department of Health FGM guidance and resources.

Arifa Nasim, of Educate2Eradicate, one of the organisations fighting FGM, child and forced marriages and ‘honour’ violence, outlines some of the signs pharmacy professionals can look for:

“Quite often if a girl or woman has just undergone FGM they may have trouble walking or sitting, and may try to ask for help, though not explicitly,” Nasim said.  “Later signs and symptoms include infertility, complications during menstruation, pregnancy and child birth, chronic urinary or vaginal infections and pain during intercourse. There are questions pharmacists can ask around the issue in order to detect FGM without a medical examination.”

FGM is a form of child abuse and has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Despite this, a study from University College London suggests FGM continues to be practised ‘in virtually every part of England and Wales’ with as many as one in 20 women in the London borough of Southwark having undergone the painful and often hazardous procedure.  The NSPCC reports that as many as 23,000 girls under the age of 15 could be at risk of FGM.

Alongside the GPhC factsheet, there are a number of resources from the Department of Health and NHS England to help you learn more about the new duty to report and how to comply:  

  • Quick guidance – a 2-page summary of the duty including a process flowchart
  • Poster – a poster for health organisations to display about the duty
  • Training slides – a training presentation organisations can use to help them deliver 10 – 15 minute updates to staff to explain the duty
  • Video interviews with Vanessa Lodge, NHS England National FGM Prevention lead
  • An information leaflet for patients and their families which professionals can use to help when discussing making a report to the police

UPDATE: 6 April 2016 The Home Office have today published multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation, in addition to the resources above. 

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