Unborn babies were put at risk of harm at a private London clinic, according to a report that highlighted a number of ‘concerning’ issues.
Regency Clinic – City of London, near Old Street, North London – was rated ‘inadequate’ after Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors discovered the huge failings.
Among other issues, the consultant in charge was ‘unaware’ of what Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was and how to recognise it as a form of abuse.
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Unborn babies were put at risk of harm after inspectors found inconsistencies around what stage of a pregnancy that a radiation procedure (e.g non-urgent x-rays) could be given to pregnant women.
The inspectors said: “There was no consistency.
“This was a concern as the service is performing procedures on service users who are trying to become pregnant and exposures to a foetus at early gestation poses a risk.”
Regency Clinic offers procedures including so-called ‘virginity repair’ and ‘hymen reconstruction’ surgery- procedures in which doctors restore a layer of membrane at the entrance to the vagina.
These intrusive and potentially traumatic vaginal examinations are deemed an infringement of human rights by the United Nations and have no health benefits.
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While such procedures are legal, campaigners maintain virginity testing is another form of gender-based violence like female genital mutilation (FGM).
Guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) state a patient’s consent to undergo a procedure should come into question if it is suspected of being ‘given under pressure or duress exerted by another person’.
Yet when inspectors asked the permanent consultant at Regency Gynaecology Clinic, they were ‘unaware’ of FGM or how to recognise this as a form of abuse.
The inspection also found no evidence of any staff meetings having taken place for the past 6 months.
The cosmetic clinic also breached professional standards by not having a two-week cooling-off period after a patient decides to undergo a cosmetic procedure.
The inspectors said this is vital in order for patients to ‘reflect on the decision’.
At Regency Clinic, staff were unaware of this cooling-off period and sometimes patients had procedures just days after agreeing to them.
Staff also did not have access to radiation monitoring badges. This meant they were unable to monitor the levels of radiation they were being exposed to in order to prevent harmful levels from being reached.
Nicola Wise, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “Our recent inspection of the Regency Clinic, City of London, identified real concerns about the leadership of the service.
“In 2018 we found that the service was performing procedures on women who were trying to get pregnant, which, if they were already in the early stages of pregnancy, could put their unborn baby at risk of harm.
“We told the provider that it must ensure that patients who may be pregnant are protected from harm.
“Yet during the latest inspection, we found inconsistent policies relating to when diagnostic (X-ray) imaging procedures can be carried out on women who may be pregnant.
“As a result, we had to take urgent action to prevent the service from carrying out surgical, diagnostic and screening procedures, as well as the treatment of disease or injury, in order to keep people safe.
“The suspension was lifted on October 15 as we were satisfied that the provider had made sufficient improvements, however, we will continue to monitor the service closely to ensure that staff and patients are protected from harm.”
The clinic was contacted for comment.