Sunday, November 30, 2014

FGM clinic sees its youngest patient yet — a 3-year-old girl

Doctors at Britain’s first specialist clinic for child victims of female genital mutilation have revealed its youngest patient was three years old.

Experts said that since launching the London clinic, which gives medical treatment and psychological help to child survivors, they had “given an opinion” on a three-year-old girl and that their oldest patient was 17.

They said they had dealt with “a variety of complaints and referrals” since the clinic opened at University College Hospital three months ago.

Figures published yesterday by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that last month there were 802 active FGM cases in the London region and 217 newly identified ones, a slight fall from the previous month.

During a visit to the hospital, public health minister Jane Ellison praised the Evening Standard for highlighting the barbaric practice. Dr Deborah Hodes, a consultant paediatrician at UCH, launched the clinic with Professor Sarah Creighton, a consultant gynaecologist, to help meet the needs of the growing number of patients.

Dr Hodes said: “In our joint clinic, we’ve had to give an opinion on a three-year-old and we’ve seen a 17-year-old and there are other ages in between.”
She said that, “for the most part”, the under-18s she had seen had undergone type four FGM — which includes burning the clitoris, cutting or scarring the vaginal opening.

Staff including play specialists and psychotherapists are on hand at the monthly clinic to help children overcome procedures and traumas and a soft doll is used to explain to girls what the examinations will involve.

They are also able to take photographs of injuries to use as evidence.

Professor Creighton said children need to be treated in the “right setting”.She said: “They need a more comprehensive approach. Children shouldn’t be seen in adult clinics, they need to be seen in children’s clinics where they have play specialists and come to the paediatric ward.”

Ms Ellison said: “We all have that sense of astonishing momentum, with great support from the Evening Standard and other people as well. Now we want to keep that momentum up.”

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