The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for employers to give healthcare workers guidance and support to help tackle female genital mutilation.
The RCN has published the third edition of its guidance on female genital mutilation (FGM).
It highlights ways of tackling FGM, including sharing information across social care services and health.
It also highlights the need to continue to raise awareness.
According to research by City University and Equality Now 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales in 2011 had been affected by FGM and 60,000 girls under 14 were at risk, although the practice is illegal in the UK.
The guidance said: “It is important to acknowledge that while some healthcare professionals work closely with communities that have practised FGM for generations, others may rarely come
across this practice. Nevertheless, it is important everyone has some understanding of FGM in order to provide the best quality care for the women and girls they come into contact with.”
The updated guidance gives information about the Serious Crime Act, which extends the law to include offences committed overseas against a UK citizen.
It also covers the mandatory requirement to report FGM, which was brought in last autumn.
Carmel Bagness (pictured), the professional lead for midwifery and women’s health at the RCN said: “The legal and professional responsibilities of nurses and midwives have changed, and our latest guidance will bring healthcare staff up to date, making it clear what they can do to protect their patients.”
She added: “There is also an onus on employers to provide all the education and training they need to carry out their responsibilities in this area.
“Nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals are well placed to help protect women and girls from this deplorable abuse, but need strong support and thorough training to do so.”