The description of the rise of knife crime on our streets as an “epidemic” has been backed up by a report, published today, which shows hospitals across the country treating as many as 21 young victims of violence every day, following assaults with knives and other weapons.
The head of a charity supporting youth affected by knife crime described even these startling injury statistics as “just the tip of the iceberg”.
The research was carried out on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, which is chaired by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones.
The figures also demonstrate a worrying gap in the recording of youth violence, including knife injuries.
The APPG surveyed all NHS hospital trusts in England via Freedom of Information requests. Just half of NHS trusts were able to provide the correct data for weapon assaults on 11-to-25-year-olds. The researchers did not provide any breakdown by individual hospital, such as Croydon’s Mayday or St Helier in Sutton.
Responses from 58 per cent of NHS trusts show that more than 4,500 young people – 12 per day – attended an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre in 2018 following assault by a knife or other weapon.
Since nearly half of trusts were not able to provide any data, there is a strong likelihood that the actual number of victims could be much higher.
“These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, with the real number of young people attending hospital after assault with a weapon likely to be much higher,” said John Poyton, the chief executive of Redthread, a charity which works with youths affected by violent crime.
The APPG figures come on the third day of the Prime Minister’s youth violence summit at Downing Street – focusing on the role of the health sector – and follow an expert round-table meeting on the role of the NHS in tackling knife crime, held by the APPG at the House of Commons on Monday.
Monday’s round-table meeting – chaired by Jones – heard from Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, surgeons, GPs and heads of youth charities Redthread and Barnardo’s.
Recommendations included improving ISTV (Information Sharing to Tackle Violence) data collection in hospitals, and expanding innovations such as Redthread’s Youth Violence Intervention Programme which embeds youth workers in A&Es to support young people after they have been a victim of a serious assault.
“With knife crime at record levels, the incredible work of our NHS staff has never been more important,” Jones said.
“They are saving young lives every day. Today’s figures show how stark this crisis is with thousands of young people being hospitalised by violence. But it’s worrying that almost half of NHS trusts were unable to give us accurate information on young knife victims.
“We have been calling for a public health approach to knife crime for some time so it’s encouraging that the Prime Minister has finally accepted this. But as we heard from health experts this week, the first part of a public health response is about diagnosing the problem – we can’t do that unless we know where the violence epidemic is most acute.”
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