Changes to the FGM Act 2003 that take effect from the end of the month introduce a 'mandatory reporting duty' for all regulated health and social care professionals in England and Wales.
GPs were already subject to a professional requirement to report suspected FGM to the police, under GMC guidance.
The updated legislation means GPs should report to the police any 'known' cases of FGM in patients aged under 18 that they encounter in the course of their professional work.
Home Office guidance says the duty to report suspected FGM to the police applies where health professionals 'are informed by a girl under 18 that an act of FGM has been carried out on her, or observe physical signs which appear to show that an act of FGM has been carried out on a girl under 18 and they have no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth'.
The duty to report does not apply where patients over 18 report that FGM was carried out on them, even if it took place before they were 18.
The guidance makes clear that reporting FGM 'does not breach any confidentiality requirement or other restriction on disclosure which might otherwise apply'.
BMA guidance also warns GPs that in any case where a doctor suspects a patient may be at risk of FGM, they should immediately contact either the police, social services or the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).