DOCTORS and dentists in England and Wales are now required to report cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in girls under age 18.
This new "mandatory duty" (introduced in the Serious Crime Act 2015) means that from 31 October regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales must now report "visually confirmed or verbally disclosed" cases of FGM in girls under 18 to the police.
The Home Office has published guidance which sets out the legal requirements and the process to follow for making reports. It also details what action may be taken for failure to comply with the duty.
A range of resources are also available to help ensure that healthcare staff are equipped and confident to deal with cases of FGM. It includes quick guidance for professionals, a poster for NHS organisations to publicise the duty to their staff, training slides and a leaflet for staff to give to patients to explain the new duty.
Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said: "FGM is a crime and it is child abuse, and this Government will not tolerate a practice that can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls.
"The duty is an important step forward in tackling this practice, and we believe that it will make sure professionals have the confidence to confront FGM.
"There is clear evidence that existing systems are not yielding appropriate referrals to the police. We need to ensure that where a serious crime has been committed, the police are informed and can instigate an appropriate multi-agency response to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice."