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First dedicated FGM walk-in clinic for cervical screening opens

Service available at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London

Caroline White

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The first dedicated walk-in clinic in England to offer cervical screening tests to women who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) has opened at Whipps Cross Hospital, in east London.

Figures from NHS Digital show that 5391 newly recorded cases of FGM were reported in England in 2016-17: almost half of these concerned women and girls living in London.

The clinic, which is run by Barts Health NHS Trust, is staffed by an FGM specialist gynaecologist, psychosocial practitioner to support people in crisis, an FGM specialist midwife, a female FGM-trained sample taker. And it provides access to an interpreter.

The clinic also offers information and advice, and deinfibulation, a minor procedure to divide the scar tissue which narrows the vaginal opening after FGM.

The clinic is open to women in the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Redbridge.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Reeba Oliver, who runs the clinic, said that it “offers a specialist service for FGM survivors, particularly those who avoid having a cervical screening test because of the fear that a vaginal examination evokes due to the psychological trauma they have experienced.

“In some cases an examination and smear are only possible after deinfibulation and the clinic offers this minor operation on the same day.”

She added that the consequences of FGM persisted into adulthood, “There are long-term emotional, psychological and physical effects from the damage caused by FGM,” she said, promising that women using the service would be treated “with support, dignity and understanding.”

Local GP Dr Sabeena Pheerunggee, clinical lead for safeguarding at Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group, said the clinic would provide support and care to FGM survivors in an environment designed to meet their needs.

“For many of these women, coming forward to explain what happened to them can be an extremely difficult and trying experience. As a GP, it is reassuring to know that this service is now available in this area. It is only by providing this specialist support that we will encourage survivors to come forward and seek help,” she explained.

Councillor Clare Coghill, leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “The practice of FGM is horrific and it must be stopped. We are working closely with the community to protect girls at risk. We know FGM is under-reported. This clinic is a step forward in breaking down some of those barriers.”

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