AROUND 60 new victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Bradford have been seen by NHS services over the last year.

While concentrated on larger cities across England, new figures show that cases are also found in the country's smaller towns and rural regions.

Only approximate numbers were recorded, to prevent identification of victims.

But figures from NHS Digital show that in Bradford around 80 victims of FGM - where female genitals are cut, injured or changed for no medical reason - were seen by doctors, nurses or midwives over the last year.

Of those, around 60 were having their injuries recorded by NHS services for the first time.

Dr Anne Connolly, clinical lead for maternity, women’s and sexual health for NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “FGM is a crime and it is an offence to assist the practice either within or outside the UK

“For the women who have had FGM, it can cause constant pain, infection, urinary concerns along with problems during sex. It can also be linked to depression, self-harm and can cause life threatening complications if they become pregnant.

“We are a City of Sanctuary and many refugees come to the city from countries where FGM is practised – typically in North Africa.

“Recently, all health care practitioners have been required to ask and record whether women have had FGM carried out.

“The majority of new cases we are seeing are adults who have had this crime committed on them in the past but who have not previously had their status recorded on their medical record. As women come forward to receive medical care over the coming years, we are likely to see similar increases.

“These figures will enable us to better understand the extent of the issue and help us educate and protect the next generation of daughters from this crime.”

West Bowling-based charity Peacemaker International has campaigned against the practice.

Its chief executive, Nigerian-born Yemi Fagborun underwent FGM as a baby and has often spoken of her experience, vowing to make sure everyone is aware of its consequences.

And earlier this year, Councillor Joanne Dodds (Lab, Great Horton) was presented with a Peacemaker International Outstanding Award, for her work as an FGM Champion.

While around 6,400 women and girls with FGM were seen by NHS staff in England between April 2017 and March this year, an estimated 137,000 are thought to have been affected by it.

It is illegal in the UK, and carrying out FGM or assisting in it being conducted, either in the UK or abroad, can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

Detective Superintendent Darren Minton of the West Yorkshire Police Central Safeguarding Governance Unit, said: “Safeguarding vulnerable people is a top priority for the Force and we take the issue of female genital mutilation extremely seriously. We believe that FGM is still very much underreported, and whilst mandatory reporting was put in place in 2015 and more incidents are being recorded, there will still be girls and young women at risk of this abhorrent procedure.

“We continue to raise awareness of the issue through proactive social media campaigns and work across our communities to safeguard those who may be at risk and to identify, track down and deal with offenders.

“If anyone has any concerns for a family member, friend, colleague or anyone they know they are encouraged to call their local police who are ready to help. Local police officers can be contacted by calling 101 or in the case of emergencies by calling 999.”

A spokesman for the NSPCC added: "FGM is a barbaric practice that leaves its victims physically and mentally scarred.

"We urge any young women or girls dealing with the physical and emotional impact of FGM to seek help and support.

"Sadly this abuse is all too commonplace - since the launch of our FGM helpline in 2013, we have received hundreds of calls from members of the public, as well as professionals who have questions about how best to support women and girls at risk of this complex form of abuse."

Of those recorded as victims of FGM in the first quarter of 2018, the most common recorded injury was partial removal of genitalia.

The Department for Health's decision to include genital piercings as a form of FGM in 2015 caused controversy, but the figures show that these account for only a small portion of the recorded cases. In nearly half of cases, the type of injury was not recorded.

As well as providing treatment for injuries sustained through FGM, NHS services also advise patients on the illegality of the practice, and provide advice on its long-term health implications.

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 FGM is performed.