Nursing staff are needed to play a key role in supporting the victims of so-called female genital mutilation (FGM) 'parties' that are reported to be taking place across the UK.
BBC News reports that charity organisation the Black Health Initiative has received evidence that gatherings where multiple girls are subject to FGM at one time are happening in Britain, with 'cutters' flying in from Africa to carry out the procedure.
Heather Nelson, chief executive of the charity, explained: "We know of parties happening here in England, and in West Yorkshire we recently had to break one up, and we've stopped another from taking place."
Healthcare staff, teachers and other authority figures in contact with young girls have previously been warned about how to identify FGM victims taken out of school or missing appointments because they have been flown abroad to undergo the procedure.
But now, it appears that perpetrators are instead travelling to the UK from overseas to perform FGM, making it harder for the authorities to identify potential victims.
Instead, nurses are being advised on providing support to girls who have been subject to FGM and are in need of urgent medical care and psychological counselling, which is particularly likely to be the case if the procedure was carried out in their local area, where they had previously felt safe.
Estimates from the City University of London predict that 137,000 girls and women living in England and Wales have been forced to undergo FGM, meaning they are at risk of bladder infections, irregular bleeding, extreme pain and difficulty having sexual intercourse or giving birth in the future.
NHS Digital only began collecting data on FGM victims in April 2015, so this is a relatively new issue for the health service to be dealing with. As a result, nursing staff need to be kept up to date with the latest FGM 'trends' in order to help them to spot signs of the procedure and to make sure they know how to deal with victims and their injuries in the most sensitive way possible.
Written by James Puckle
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