Additional information on female genital mutilation cases

New duty in force from 31 October 2015

Nurses and midwives must report female genital mutilation cases

Nurses and midwives must at all times keep to the principles contained within The Code: Professional standards of practice and behaviour of nurses and midwives (2015) (the Code). The Code states that nurses and midwives must take all reasonable steps to protect people who are vulnerable or at risk from harm, neglect or abuse. They must also have knowledge of and keep to the relevant laws and policies about protecting and caring for vulnerable people.

A new mandatory reporting duty to report female genital mutilation (FGM) cases to the police has come into effect on 31 October 2015. The new duty applies where a nurse or midwife, in the course of their work, either:

  • is informed directly by the girl that an act of FGM has been carried out on her, or
  • observes physical signs which appear to show an act of FGM has been carried out and has no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth.

The new duty applies only to girls under 18 at the time of disclosure or visual identification of FGM. It applies only in England and Wales.

Nurses and midwives should familiarise themselves with the government’s guidance on the new duty. A range of additional resources to support health professionals comply with the new duty are available from the Government’s website. Failure to comply with the duty may result in an investigation of the nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise.

The new duty is limited to the specific circumstances described above. However in complying with the Code, nurses and midwives should continue to have regard to their wider safeguarding responsibilities, whether in relation to FGM or any other forms of abuse.