New moves could regulate circumcision

There are fears that Jewish circumcision in the UK could be regulated by NHS bodies for the first time, following a move to curb malpractice in other ethnic groups.

Last week the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Partnership, a joint arm of NHS and Social Services, released a leaflet to GP surgeries and hospitals offering guidance for parents on circumcision.

The leaflet was produced with extensive consultation with the Jewish community, which resisted the inclusion of a list of Jewish practitioners (mohelim).

But in February the GMSCP intends to publish a list of good practitioners from all faiths, in response to Manchester hospitals flagging up botched circumcisions by non-Jewish private practitioners.

Practitioners will require annual NHS assessment to be listed.

But the Board of Deputies' Professor David Katz, an expert in immunopathology and public health, feared wide implications. He said: "There is a risk this could lead to further regulation, because as soon as you produce a list, the implication is there is something wrong with those who are not on it" .

Dr David Hibbert, a GP and the North West representative for the Initiation Society, which has trained and regulated mohelim for 350 years, said a "worst case scenario" would be an insistence that circumcisions must be carried out in licensed premises, hindering home circumcisions on Shabbat or those in synagogues.

Dr Hibbert said: "I don't think it's unreasonable for the NHS to want minimal standards. But as far as the Jewish community is concerned, we already have a list of practitioners and regulation from the Initiation Society."

He added: "There is a danger of lumping us together with non-Jewish communities.

"So far the Manchester health authorities have shown great willingness to take on our suggestions. If the supervisory nature of the NHS in this area becomes onerous, it could impinge on traditional Jewish practice."

The project lead for GMSCP, Dr Paula Whittaker, said: "We were really impressed that the Initiation Society has a very vigorous and robust regulation process and very low complication rates.

"We didn't have anything similar existing for other practitioners and we were looking to replicate what the Initiation Society does, as a model of best practice. We are not in anyway passing judgment. All we can say is that the people on our list will meet minimum standards. I don't see any move to make this kind of thing mandatory."

Last updated: 10:36am, November 4 2011