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NHS knife crime figures are 'tip of the iceberg'

Published on
03 April 2019

New figures published today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime indicate up to 21 young people per day are being treated by hospitals following assaults with knives and other weapons.

The APPG surveyed all NHS hospital trusts in England via Freedom of Information requests, revealing worrying gaps in the recording of youth violence in hospitals as the knife crime epidemic continues.

According to the research, nearly 3 out of 5 NHS trusts were able to provide the correct data for weapon assaults on 11-25 year olds.

Responses from (58%) NHS trusts show that in 2018 over 4,500 young people - 12 per day - attended an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre following assault by a knife or other weapon. 42% of trusts were not able to provide the data, indicating the actual number of victims could be much higher.

The new 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 roundtable on the role of the NHS in tackling knife crime held by the APPG on Monday.

Monday’s roundtable - chaired by Sarah Jones MP - 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.

Barnardo's Chief Executive Javed Khan said: 

“Knife crime is an epidemic threatening our children’s lives and the safety of our communities. These alarming figures show just how deep rooted the problem is.

“As a society we need to address the poverty of hope felt by many children and young people across the country, where they see little or no chance of a positive future.  Caught in a vicious cycle, they carry knives because they don’t feel safe.

“Barnardo’s has long said we need police, community leaders, children and young people, representatives from education, national and local governments and charities to work together to find a solution. The Prime Minister’s summit is a very welcome part of this. 

“But to truly understand the scale of the problem and the root causes, it’s vital healthcare professionals know what’s going on in their area and keep accurate data and share information appropriately to help keep children safe.”

Barnardo's Chief Executive says we need to address the poverty of hope
We need to address the poverty of hope

Javed Khan

Barnardo's Chief Executive

Sarah Jones, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, said:

“With knife crime at record levels, the incredible work of our NHS staff has never been more important. 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.”

John Poyton, Chief Executive of Redthread, said:

“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.”

“Hospitals and GP surgeries are anchor institutions in our communities and the NHS has a pivotal role to play in treating the youth violence as well as preventing it. Once we fully understand the size and shape of violence, we can then analyse the causes and all come together to coordinate the multi-agency solutions needed to ensure safer communities for our young people.”

Notes to editors:

The APPG on Knife Crime is a group of over 40 MPs and Peers, chaired by Sarah Jones MP and coordinated by charities Redthread and Barnardo’s.

The APPG surveyed all NHS Hospital Trusts in England (via a Freedom of Information Request) between 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2018 and discovered 4,502 young people aged 11-25 attended an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre in 2018 for a weapon enabled assault or an assault resulting in a wound. This equates to 12 young people per day or 86 per week.

123 of 149 trusts (82%) responded but only 87 (58%) were able to provide the data. This indicates the actual number of hospital attendances for this age group is much higher - up to 7,700 over the year across all trusts or 21 per day.​​​​