New victims of female genital mutilation were recorded by NHS services in north Cumbria between April and June.

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 North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group area between April and June, NHS Digital figures show.

Of those, at least one had their injuries reported for the first time, compared to none 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.

A spokesman for NHS North Cumbria CCG said: “We’re aware from a report published today by the Royal college of Paediatrics and Child Health, following an epidemiological surveillance study of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) across the UK, that there are low numbers of cases of children being referred for FGM assessments, and that to date there has also been only one successful prosecution. Although cases are rare in Cumbria, we know that unfortunately there are instances of it, and that it has a devastating impact on the lives of those involved. We encourage health and care professionals working with families to be proactive in considering this issue in their contacts with women and children who are at risk, so that we can effectively safeguard these groups and reduce cases of FGM.

“In Cumbria there is a multi-agency approach to reducing cases of FGM, where health and care organisations work in partnership with local authorities, the third sector, and voluntary organisations, to educate and raise awareness of the issue, and to provide a clear route for raising concerns.

“If members of the public have any concerns, these need to be raised immediately by contacting the Cumbria Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727, or reporting it to the local police.”

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 per cent 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 north Cumbria, all the women seen between April and June were over 18.

A police spokesman said: “FGM is a criminal offence, it is an abhorrent crime that no one should ever have to suffer. Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given for FGM. However, FGM is a form of child abuse which can leave victims traumatised for life.

“It is important for practitioners who work with young people to be aware of the signs and to report any concerns they have immediately. Cumbria Police are committed to pursuing those who commit or allow FGM, we will fully support victims and work with professional partners to ensure victims are supported.”

For anyone who needs help or support about this they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.