Women are being given controversial "virginity repair" operations on the NHS, it emerged last night.
Taxpayers funded 24 hymen replacement operations between 2005 and 2006, official figures revealed.
And increasing numbers of women are paying up to £4,000 in private clinics for the procedure apparently under pressure from future spouses or in-laws who believe they should be virgins on their wedding night.
Doctors said most patients are immigrants or British of ethnic origin.
The trend has been condemned by critics as a sign of social regression driven by Islamic fundamentalists. Some countries have made hymen reconstruction operations illegal.
Tory health spokesman Mike Penning expressed concern.
He said: "If there is any cultural or other pressure being put on the women from any source to have this done, that would be a very retrograde step.
"If a woman has been violated or raped and lost her virginity, clearly everything possible should be done to assist her.
"But what nobody would understand is if taxpayers' money is being used to fund operations of this kind for cultural or cosmetic reasons."
Labour MP Ann Cryer said she was "absolutely horrified" to learn of the phenomenon.
She added: "We should be trying to protect girls from this.
"It is a form of abuse of women and it may be that the woman who is asking for the operation to be done does not recognise the abuse that is taking place against her, but in later life she certainly will.
"We have to also ask whether our National Health Service should be providing this sort of facility. I don't think it should be available on the NHS."
The Department of Health said "certain cosmetic procedures" are available on the NHS "to secure physical or psychological health".
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