Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature

How medical teams are coping with rising knife crime

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l104 (Published 05 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l104

Linked commentary

For too long we have ignored victims of major trauma and violence

  1. Emma Wilkinson, freelance journalist, Sheffield, UK
  1. emmalwilkinson{at}gmail.com

From staffing to technical advances, doctors around the UK are responding to escalating stabbing injuries. But the emotional burden and meeting rehabilitation needs can be far tougher, reports Emma Wilkinson

Wednesday lunchtime, and a man drives his car to the front of the hospital having been stabbed multiple times, including in the chest.

Rob Jackson, a nurse clinician at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, was mid-shift when the man pulled up with serious stab wounds. He tells the story not because it is unusual but to underpin how stabbing has become routine, even in a hospital that is not one of England’s major trauma centres.

He says the hospital has seen about a 20% increase in stabbing injuries over the past few years and that its teams have to be prepared for it happening at all times of day and night.

“Our last eight fatalities have been single stab wounds,” he says. “People are not being butchered; we are losing people from single stab wounds.”

Adrian Boyle, chair of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and based in Cambridge, says that Addenbrooke’s Hospital has also seen a 20% increase—albeit from a very low baseline. It is, he stresses, a complex issue with “many moving parts,” but it is clear that emergency and other hospital teams are having to treat victims of knife crime with increasing regularity.

Hospital data on those admitted in England after “assault by a sharp object” show a 39% rise between 2014 and 2015 and 2017-18.1 And those figures do not capture people who are treated and discharged from emergency departments without admission. The trend has implications for hospital staffing, training, and the wellbeing of clinical teams.

Family drama

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen team has the clinical side of things down to a …

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