Every hospital emergency department should share information about violent incidents with local crime reduction agencies to tackle the problem of knife crime, says an expert in violent behaviour.
Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Violence Research Group at Cardiff University, said all emergency departments should collect anonymous data on the locations and times that violence occurs and the types of weapons used. This should be shared with crime reduction partnerships, so that violence "hotspots" can be identified and targeted.
Evidence shows that increasing the perceived likelihood of being caught is more of a deterrent than the severity of sentence, and that police interventions that target "hotspots" are particularly effective, he wrote in the week's British Medical Journal.
Since 2000, violence has become considerably less frequent, but the resulting injuries appear to be more serious, Professor Shepherd warned.
Rates of hospital admission in England for violence of all types increased from 82.7/100,000 in 2000/01 to 114.1/100,000 in 2006/07, while admissions due to knife violence increased from 8.5/100,000 to 11.3/100,000. However, treatment in emergency departments after violence decreased from about 850 to 620 per 100,000.
Professor Shepherd said: "It is not safe to assume that the most serious violence, including knife and gun violence, will have been reported."
Many serious violent incidents which result in treatment are not reported to the police due to fear of reprisal or an inability to identify assailants.
He pointed out that over the past 10 years the 350 Crime Reduction Partnerships to which the NHS, local authorities and police all contribute has confirmed that an integrated approach and data sharing significantly reduces violence compared with the police and local authorities working alone.
He said a prevention policy of hospitals sharing information with other agencies is vital to tackling knife violence and key to this will be emergency medicine consultants being directly involved in partnership prevention work, including attending meetings with the police and local authority representatives.