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BMA Q and A: FGM, care.data and guidance for armed forces doctors

BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland answers your questions

The government has announced measures to combat FGM (female genital mutilation). What role do you think doctors play? 

Tony CallandThe government said progress in tackling this issue would not have been possible without frontline professionals’ commitment. 

Doctors have a crucial role in asking the right questions to help identify girls at risk, and supporting those living with the resultant psychological and physical health problems.

It is vital that doctors address this issue in their clinical practice. 

Doctors can seek advice and support if they think a child is at risk of FGM from the NSPCC’s FGM helpline 0800 028 3550.


The BMA launched a toolkit for armed forces doctors just over a year ago. How has this been used by doctors? 

The toolkit was developed after a case in which military medical personnel were drawn into unprofessional practice. 

We have had requests for the toolkit from many doctors and health professionals working in the armed forces, in the UK and overseas. 

It has set an international benchmark for good practice. 


The BMA has been pressing to ensure patients are informed about the care.data system. What other involvement has the BMA had in these plans? 

data protectionThe Health and Social Care Act 2012 creates a statutory obligation for the Health and Social Care Information Centre to require data from providers, including GPs. The first use of the new legal powers is care.data, the aim of which is to use information to inform commissioning decisions and improve health services.

The BMA supports use of anonymised or pseudonymised data to improve patient care but is clear this must not undermine trust in the confidentiality of the health service. 

The BMA lobbied for improvements to the original proposals and negotiated the right for patients to object to confidential data leaving the GP practice for care.data. Our negotiations have resulted in commissioners having access only to pseudonymised or anonymised data.


Is the committee working on any new publications?

As part of the BMA’s work in upholding and promoting health-related human rights, we are producing a report on the health and human rights of children and young people in detention in the UK. 

The report has two main aims: supporting healthcare professionals in protecting and promoting the health-related rights of these children and young people, and highlighting aspects of the secure environment that are detrimental to health and, to this end, making recommendations for change to commissioners, youth justice agencies and policy-makers. We aim to publish the report this summer.

 Read the BMA guidance on FGM

 Use the BMA armed forces toolkit

 Read about the BMA's work on care.data


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