Britain's first clinic for young victims of female genital mutilation, or FGM, has seen just five girls in the past year, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
In total, the service – which has cost more than £70,000 over and above staff salaries – has treated just 43 patients since it opened four years ago.
Last night some experts said the lack of patients at the children's FGM clinic within University College Hospital London raised questions about how prevalent the barbaric practice is in this country.
FGM has been called a 'national scandal' by MPs, and the Government has spent more than £35 million on trying to eradicate it, but despite three high-profile trials there has still not been a successful prosecution.
The clinic for girls aged under 18 who have undergone FGM has been operating since September 2014, and is run by consultant gynaecologist Professor Sarah Creighton and consultant paediatrician Dr Deborah Hodes.
It operates once a month and examines girls who have been referred by police, GPs or social services to see if they need medical or psychological help.
After it had been running for 12 months, Prof Creighton said that 'our clinics have been full throughout the last year'.
However figures presented to the trust's board last month and obtained by this newspaper show that eight children were seen in 2014-15, then 16 the following year.
Another 14 patients were seen in 2016-17 then just five in the past financial year.
Asked for more details under Freedom of Information laws, the trust said all the girls referred to the clinic had confirmed FGM but would not say how many underwent the practice in the UK, where it is illegal. Figures suggest most cases take place overseas.
Last night ex-midwife Brid Hehir said: 'These figures confirm what was suspected from the outset.
The supposed epidemic of FGM in the UK is entirely a figment of fevered imaginations.
Most children seen at the clinic must have undergone FGM before coming to live in the UK.
A girl who underwent FGM abroad should be of no interest except where it impacts negatively on her health.
The industry that has developed around the practice is a huge waste of public funds.'
The hospital said 28 of the patients had suffered removal of the clitoris while seven had undergone genital piercing or pricking.
Latest nationwide statistics show that 16,455 women and girls seen by doctors in England since 2015 had undergone some form of FGM.
However the NHS report admitted that, of recent patients, 87 per cent endured FGM in Africa, while most cases undertaken in the UK are legal piercings on consenting adults.