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Epidemiological surveillance study of female genital mutilation in the UK
  1. Deborah Hodes1,
  2. Najette Ayadi O’Donnell1,
  3. Karina Pall2,
  4. Marina Leoni2,
  5. Wingsan Lok2,
  6. Geoff Debelle3,
  7. Alice Jane Armitage1,
  8. Sarah M Creighton4,
  9. Richard M Lynn2,5
  1. 1 Department of Paediatrics, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 BPSU, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, London, UK
  3. 3 Child Protection, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 Women’s Health, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  5. 5 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Institue Of Child Health, University College London Research, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deborah Hodes, Department of Paediatrics, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK; deborah.hodes{at}


Objectives Describe cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) presenting to consultant paediatricians and sexual assault referral centres (SARCs), including demographics, medical symptoms, examination findings and outcome.

Design The well-established epidemiological surveillance study performed through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit included FGM on the monthly returns.

Setting All consultant paediatricians and relevant SARC leads across the UK and Ireland.

Patients Under 16 years old with FGM.

Interventions Data on cases from November 2015 to November 2017 and 12 months later meeting the case definition of FGM.

Main outcome measures Returns included 146 cases, 103 (71%) had confirmed FGM and 43 (29%) did not meet the case definition. There were none from Northern Ireland.

Results The mean reported age was 3 years. Using the WHO classification of FGM, 58% (n=60) had either type 1 or type 2, 8% (n=8) had type 3 and 21% (n=22) had type 4. 13% (n=13) of the cases were not classified and none had piercings or labiaplasty. The majority, 70% had FGM performed in Africa with others from Europe, Middle East and South-East Asia. There were few physical and mental health symptoms. Only one case resulted in a successful prosecution.

Conclusions There were low numbers of children presenting with FGM and in the 2 years there was only one prosecution. The findings may be consistent with attitude changes in FGM practising communities and those at risk should be protected and supported by culturally competent national policies

  • epidemiology
  • child abuse

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  • Contributors DH had the idea for the study and with AJA and RML designed the study. The BPSU Scientific Committee approved the application to run the study. KP, ML, WL, RML and NAO'D carried out the data analyses. DH, NAO'D, AJA, RML, KP, ML, WL and SMC reviewed the data. DH, NAO'D, AJA, RML, GD, WL, SMC wrote and finalised the manuscript.

  • Funding The RCPCH and North West London NHS Foundation Trust have been funded by the FGM Prevention Programme, Department of Health, reference number 7591.

  • Disclaimer The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funder or the sponsor.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG Ref: 15/CAG/0178) and Public Benefit and Benefit Privacy Panel (Ref 1516–0292). Ethics submission was made to the South East Scotland Research Ethics Service who stated that they didn’t consider the application 15/SS/0139 to be research and therefore the project does not require NHS ethical review.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.