West London has the highest number of new female genital mutilation (FGM) cases in the capital since records recently began.
Hospital trusts across west London reported 120 new cases in January alone, with the total number since September coming in at a shocking 550.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has had the highest numbers, with 193 new cases since September last year, when statistics started being produced at a trust-by-trust level.
FGM, also known as cutting or female circumcision, is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons in some communities, mainly from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The practice, which has no health benefits, has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but the first prosecutions only happened in March last year.
According to the NHS, over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year and 66,000 women are living with the consequences of it but the true extent is unknown due to the hidden nature of the crime.
London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Central Middlesex, Ealing, Northwick Park and St Mark’s Hospitals and community services, had the next highest number of FGM cases after Imperial with 93 from September to December, and 36 more in January.
A spokeswoman from Imperial said: “We are working hard to support women affected by FGM.
“As part of this, we have trained all staff in our antenatal clinics to identify women who have been subject to or who may be at risk of FGM. We then refer these women to our specialist clinic where we are able to offer counselling and emotional support alongside expert clinical care.
“In addition, our midwives work in the community, at the Acton African Well Woman Centre, where women can get advice, support and care without needing to come to hospital. We also work with local health advocates to identify and support other women who may be affected by FGM.”
Only 126 out of 157 hospital trusts actually submitted figures so the actual scale of FGM is likely to be larger than these figures suggest.
West London hospitals' FGM figures
|New cases Sep-Dec||New cases Jan|
|Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust||166||193|
|London North West Healthcare NHS Trust||93||129|
|Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust||43||47|
|West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust||28||44|
|The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust||17||35|
|Ealing Hospital NHS Trust||11||11|