MPS recognises that the policy decision has been made to introduce mandatory reporting for female genital mutilation (FGM). For this reason we will not comment on the policy decision itself. Having said that, MPS is of the view that the current General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines for reporting FGM are, in general, clear and appropriate.
Doctors are already under a professional obligation to report cases of FGM as it is a form of child abuse. Under the current GMC guidance ‘Protecting Children and Young People 2012’ (paragraph 32), doctors must refer cases of FGM as one form of child abuse to the local authority children’s services, if it is in the best interests of the child.
It requires that the practitioner does so ‘promptly’. Furthermore, as recognised in the consultation, practitioners have a further duty to make a referral to children’s social care any cases where they suspect a child has suffered abuse or is at risk of abuse under existing statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’.
When introducing a mandatory reporting system as is proposed, the Government should recognise that a doctor must maintain the trust of their patient. A balance has to be achieved between any duty to report and ensuring patients are not deterred from seeking medical advice or withdrawing from it.
There is a risk that mandatory reporting may mean that some girls/women choose not to seek advice for medical concerns, and particularly for pregnancy and other gynaecological problems. Thorough consideration must be given as to how to mitigate this risk.
Additionally, legislation must be flexible enough to ensure that individual, and sometimes quite complex, circumstances of a case are taken into account. As we explore later, depending on the experience of the doctor and the Type of the FGM, identification can be harder in some cases.
We would advocate a sunset clause being included in this legislation. This will ensure that a post-implementation review will take place. It is important that legislation is reviewed against its objectives after an initial five year period. This will allow for any necessary changes to be made based on the experience of its implementation. Added to this, due to the sensitive nature of the legislation, we would also advocate an initial one year review.
Read the full consultation report