IanIan Currie, RCOG Vice President, UK Affairs writes…

Yesterday was International Day for Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

Previous estimates are that 66,000 women resident in England and Wales have undergone FGM and over 23,000 under the age of 15, from African communities, are at risk of, or may have undergone FGM. Globally, according to the WHO, between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

FGM is an abuse of human rights and a form of violence against children and women. We must do what we can to eradicate this harmful and unacceptable practice.

Back in November last year, the RCOG along with the RCM, RCN, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) and Equality Now launched a ground-breaking report Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting, which for the first time, openly recognised FGM as a form of child abuse.

The recommendations provide policy advice for commissioners and different service providers in the UK to better identify, monitor and protect girls and women from at-risk communities, focusing on issues such as the lack data collection and systematic sharing of information empowering frontline professionals and potential victims and holding professionals to account.

Much progress has been made over the past three years to mainstream FGM into existing strategies and close gaps in the identification, recording and sharing of information including; the Department of Health has funded a feasibility study on the inclusion of FGM data in the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), the Home Office is producing an FGM toolkit for affected areas in the UK, the APPG on FGM successfully advocated for the inclusion of FGM in OFSTED inspections, the London Metropolitan Police Force has set up a strategy group on FGM and is proactively engaged in creating prosecution opportunities and the Department for International Development (DIFID) launched an ambitious £35 million programme towards ending FGM in Africa.

However, there have been no prosecutions to date in the UK, despite the fact that FGM has been a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act (1985) which was updated and replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act in 2003. This is a constant reminder of the work that still needs to be done and we must keep up the momentum.

To mark International Day for Zero Tolerance for FGM this year, we welcome the various departmental announcements that demonstrate the Government’s commitment to progressing the Intercollegiate Group recommendations, especially the Department of Health’s announcement, making it mandatory for all NHS acute hospitals to provide information on patients who have undergone female genital mutilation. It is extremely promising and we remain very positive of the activities that will spring from these announcements.

Furthermore, the Home Affairs Committee is currently conducting a new inquiry into FGM which seeks to determine why there has yet to have been a single prosecution in the UK, as well as considering what more needs to be done to protect at-risk girls. The Intercollegiate Group are submitting written evidence to this inquiry which will concentrate on our recommendations to improve integration across health and social care settings and the fact that early intervention is key to FGM prevention.

Lastly, I must reiterate that all health and social care professionals have a pivotal role to play in identifying, sharing information and reporting cases in order to end this barbaric practice. It is the duty of doctors, nurses, midwives and health visitors to identify the girls whom they believe are at-risk and to share such information in good faith with the local safeguarding networks so these girls can be monitored and protected by social services.

Healthcare professionals working in the community are key to the successful implementation of the Intercollegiate Group recommendations in the UK. Constant vigilance is needed and we must ensure we protect the girls and women entrusted to our care.


IanWe recently published a paper into the ethical considerations in relation to female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS), procedures which change the structure and appearance of the healthy external genitalia of women, or internally in the case of vaginal tightening.

We are concerned about the growing number of women opting for cosmetic gynaecological surgery; Hospital Episode Statistics suggest the number of labial reduction procedures has risen five-fold in the NHS over the past 10 years, with over 2000 operations having been performed in 2010. However, many more procedures may be taking place in the private sector.

Our paper was produced by The RCOG Ethics Committee which considers ethical aspects and legal implications of matters of concern affecting the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. I commend Dame Suzie Leather, the Chair of the Committee, for both her work on the paper and for playing a lead role in its successful launch. Read the rest of this entry »

MOUNTFIELDJoDr Jo Mountfield FRCOG, Workplace Behaviours Advisor at the RCOG writes…

It is now more than six months since I undertook the role of Workplace Behaviours Advisor at the RCOG so now seems a fitting time to reflect on progress. What has not been surprising is the commitment to address the issues we face as a specialty and the support from all quarters in the College and its members to make a difference.

This is a subject that raises many emotions in a wide range of people. There are few who have not been subjected to unacceptable behaviour in their careers, however, my perception is that attitudes are shifting and what may have been passed off as “well that’s just the way they are” or “it’s always like that in that department, it’s their high standards” is no longer acceptable. Read the rest of this entry »

PaulRCOG Senior Vice President Dr Paul Fogarty writes …

Last week, the RCOG launched our new Global Health Strategy to improve the life chances of women and babies in under-resourced countries. The launch was held in the House of Lords, co-hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health.

The new five-year strategy (2013-17) was well received by Lords, MPs and colleagues in attendance, with many acknowledging that as the UN Millennium Developments Goals draw to a close, there is still more that needs to be done to improve life chances of mothers and babies worldwide.

Our new strategy will focus on the College’s key strengths in standard-setting, education and training along with an enhanced RCOG Volunteering package. The standards and guidelines that we have developed, along with the quality of our training, have helped transform women’s healthcare in the UK and this strategy is a proactive step towards extending this quality of care around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

President Tony Falconer FRCOG 018RCOG President, Dr Tony Falconer writes…

As I finish my presidency at the RCOG, I would like to thank everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with over the last three years.

On Friday 27 September, David Richmond, current Vice President of Clinical Quality, will be installed as the next President of the RCOG and I know that he will be a very outstanding President.

Looking back, the last three years have certainly been extremely busy but highly rewarding. The NHS reforms and introduction of the new Health and Social Care Act 2012 has seen huge change in the NHS and the more recent Francis report has meant that healthcare has never been so much in the spotlight. Read the rest of this entry »

jimmyRCOG Senior Vice President Professor James Walker writes …

Last week RCOG trainee, Dr Sophia Webster, did her part in helping to raise awareness of the challenges facing maternal health worldwide as she embarked on her Flight For Every Mother journey.

The RCOG, along with the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), are supporting Sophia as she pilots a 4-seat Cessna 182 aeroplane between the UK and South Africa, via 25 African countries, to promote safer pregnancy for women in sub-Saharan Africa.

The journey should take her 15 weeks with regular stops in countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Chad, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Morocco. These stops will allow Sophia to visit local medical and midwifery facilities where she will be able to offer some essential medical equipment and facilitate discussion and teaching sessions on how to manage the major factors contributing to preventable deaths among pregnant women. Read the rest of this entry »

President Tony Falconer FRCOG 018Dr Tony Falconer writes…

Today at our biggest World Congress yet being held in Liverpool, I will speak about the role of ethics in obstetrics and gynaecology and what this means for both us as a profession and for our patients.

As a specialty we deal with many ethical issues on a regular basis such as genetic screening and the boundaries of assisted conception to name a couple. We struggle with these topics but always try and do our best for our patients and their families.

However, we are missing the most fundamental challenge of all – ensuring that our patients receive the best possible care at all times of day or night. Is this not our greatest ethical challenge of all? Read the rest of this entry »


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