FGM/C Shifting Sands

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NHS discriminates against women with FGM

Published 15 December 2015 Associated Categories Interviews
NHS discriminates against women with fgm

In this WORLDbytes video, I challenge the exaggerated claims made by anti-FGM campaigners.

I say:

‘Campaigns against FGM exaggerate both the prevalence and extent of the practice in Britain. While the Government makes huge political capital out of the issue, it promotes double standards in regard to NHS data collection about it.

That’s because a cowardly device: a Ministerial Directive, obliges health professionals to submit patient-identifiable data to a DH centre. Centralising PID is rare and when done, patients are expected to give informed consent.

But ‘informed consent’ in regard to FGM is different. Professionals do not have to tell women their personal details are being centralised. Giving them a leaflet appears to be sufficient.

Patients are free to object to this double standard but it can be difficult at the time of care. In the politicised climate around FGM, many will be anxious about professional encounters and may not even speak English.

If they later want to object, they have to jump through bureaucratic hoops, in writing.

Why are women being taken advantage of just because they’ve had FGM? Why do they have fewer rights in regard to data protection than others do? This is wrong!’

As well as the way in which they lead the Department of Health to discriminate against women who have undergone FGM.

The video complements my article which argues that the Department of Health continues to ignore professional concerns about the Health & Social Care Information Centre’s enhanced dataset when its second FGM data prevalence report was published in Dec 15.

It also complements the article by Dr Brenda Kelly, a consultant obstetrician at the John Radcliffe Hospital and Director of the Oxford Rose Clinic, a multidisciplinary specialist clinic for women and girls with FGM. Co-authored by Charles Foster, Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford. Tutor in medical law and ethics, University of Oxford.

They argue that the mandatory submission of patient information about FGM is a pointless, damaging and discriminatory mess.

They also suggest the reporting provisions are woefully misconceived. ‘They will cause a haemorrhage of trust from the relationship that potentially traumatised women have with their clinicians. They impose a heavy burden of explanation on already harassed clinicians. We call for their annulment. But if they are to survive, the very least that should be done is that the women should know the rights that they have in respect of their data, and should have the data protection given to the native English speaking majority.’

Other lead clinicians argue that submitting patient identifiable information could be the beginnings of a slippery slope. If it’s acceptable in regard to FGM now, what might be next? They suggest the government still has time to reflect and pull back from a policy that wrecks the basic medical promise of confidentiality.

But will it?  Their correspondence with the minister of public health and civil servants remains unanswered. That unfortunately is my experience also.

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About the Author -

Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.


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