THREE victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) were seen by the NHS in Worcestershire last year, figures reveal.

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

Figures from NHS Digital show that in Worcestershire at least three appointments at NHS services concerned victims of FGM – where female genitals are cut, injured or changed for no medical reason – between July 2017 and June this year.

In areas where few cases were reported, numbers have been obscured to prevent identification.

Across England, there were 8,930 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services over the 12-month period, with more than 4,000 having their injuries recorded for the first time.

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

In 2015, the Government introduced Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders. Courts can use them to take preventative measures such as forcing potential victims of FGM to surrender their passport, so they are unable to fly abroad for procedures.

However, just 256 applications for the orders were submitted in the three years to June 2018 in England and Wales. Of those, 248 were granted.

The NSPCC estimates that 137,000 people living in the UK are victims of FGM.

The NSPCC's head of policy Almudena Lara said: “FGM is a barbaric practice that leaves its victims physically and mentally scarred. The actual number of victims is likely to be even higher, as only a tiny fraction come forward for medical help, and even then they may only come forward after many years have passed.

“It takes courage to report concerns as many feel ashamed or worry they will betray friends and family. We urge any young women or girls dealing with the physical and emotional impact of FGM to seek help and support, and anyone concerned about someone they think is at risk to speak out.”

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.