Surgeons and police officers are to work together in a joint bid to reduce the 4,600 hospital admissions in England each year due to knife assaults.
Joint working will spread the best of techniques from both professions to prevent crime and reduce the harm of injuries, cemented by a groundbreaking agreement to integrate health into crime and violence reduction.
The joint effort was announced at this week’s The Management of Knife Injuries conference, organised by the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland [ASGBI] and the Metropolitan Police Service.
Under the plan, surgeons will look at how they can play a practical role alongside community organisations and charities to provide education to at-risk groups, particularly young people, on the long-term chronic health effects of surviving knife injuries.
Surgeons also plan to improve information sharing by logging and sharing anonymous data such as location, time, patient demographics and weapon type used in assaults, so that clinicians can help identify where high profile policing can be most effective in preventing injuries.
There will also be targeted stab injury training for surgeons and roll out of regional trauma centres as well as hospitals ensuring that specially trained surgeons are available to treat the complex, life-threatening injuries caused by knives.
The Department of Health has already helped more than a hundred hospitals across the UK to start logging details of violence injuries and contribute to community safety partnerships.
Public health minister Anne Milton said: “Health professionals treat victims of knife crime, and the intelligence they gain can and should be shared with police to prevent further crime and serious injuries to innocent people.
“Over 100 hospitals are already doing this, so by April next year we want to see all hospitals in England sharing anonymised data with police. We have invested over £700,000 in the NHS to provide practical support to help this to happen.”
The ASGBI has a national network with lead surgeons in every UK hospital to spread the approaches agreed at the conference.
Professor Mike Horrocks, ASGBI president, said: “Thankfully, treating stab wounds remains a relatively small part of the surgical workload in most local hospitals.
“The roll-out of regional trauma centres currently going ahead in England should help, but surgeons working in these centres must have access to the best possible training and resources to deal with the horrific injuries caused by knives.”
Association of Chief Police Officers [ACPO] lead on tackling knives and serious youth violence, Assistant Chief Constable Sue Fish said: “We very much welcome this move by the medical profession, which is a significant step towards integrating health into crime and violence reduction.
“Violent crime has a devastating impact on victims, their families and communities, and while the police service is committed to reducing serious violence, it is clear that we cannot achieve this through law enforcement alone.
“The sharing of anonymised A&E data with police forces and community safety partnerships is invaluable in identifying violent crime hot spots, and ensuring effective targeting and use of resources.”