No new FGM victims recorded in the Herts Valleys
Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group serves Dacroum, St Albans, Harpenden, Hertsmere, Watford and Three Rivers
No new victims of female genital mutilation were recorded by NHS services in the Herts Valleys between April and June.
But with hundreds of new cases identified across England, the National FGM Centre said it is crucial that professionals work with communities affected by FGM "to change hearts and minds about the practice".
Between one and seven victims of FGM were seen by health services in the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group area between April and June, NHS Digital figures show.
Of those, none had their injuries reported for the first time, compared to at least one during same period last year.
Only approximate numbers are recorded in the data, to prevent identification of individual women.
FGM, where female genitals are removed, cut or injured for non-medical reasons, is illegal in the UK, and people carrying out or assisting with the procedure can face up to 14 years in prison.
Across England, just 610 new FGM victims were identified between April and June as the country went into lockdown.
This was the lowest number for any three-month period since records began in 2015, and a 44% decrease from the three months to June last year.
The overall number of patients either identified or being treated also hit a record low of 1,555.
Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, said it was unclear to what extent the drop was due to fewer women being seen, or NHS staff reporting fewer cases due to the pressure put on services by Covid-19.
“What is clear is that these figures continue to confirm that women and girls born in the UK have undergone FGM, with hundreds of new cases confirmed recently, despite the practice being illegal in this country since 1985," he added.
“FGM is child abuse and it's vital that we work with affected communities to change hearts and minds about the practice."
Most girls are cut before they turn 15, but are frequently not identified or treated by the NHS until they are pregnant.
In the Herts Valleys, all the women seen between April and June were over 18.
Mr Bartholomew said the national figures revealed it can take years before FGM comes to a professional's attention.
He added: "During lockdown there may have also been an increase in the number of girls at risk of undergoing FGM, because they were hidden from sight of safeguarding professionals like teachers and youth workers.
"Now children have returned to the classroom, any teachers with concerns should follow their school's safeguarding procedures.”
FGM is most commonly carried out within communities from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and young girls are often flown abroad for ceremonies where it is performed.
Of the cases in the Herts Valleys in which the region where the injuries were inflicted was stated and recorded, they were most commonly in eastern Africa and western Africa.