Soaring numbers of children and young people in England are being admitted to hospital with knife wounds, NHS figures reveal. NHS England said there were 1,012 admissions of young people aged between 10 and 19 to hospital after a stabbing with a knife or other sharp object last year, compared with 656 in 2012-13. The
Soaring numbers of children and young people in England are being admitted to hospital with knife wounds, NHS figures reveal.
NHS England said there were 1,012 admissions of young people aged between 10 and 19 to hospital after a stabbing with a knife or other sharp object last year, compared with 656 in 2012-13.
The increase has prompted NHS England to demand a crackdown on shops that illegally sell knives to under-18s. “Far too many young people are able to buy knives on the high street and we need councils and retailers to work together to stop this”, said Prof Chris Moran, NHS England’s national director for trauma care.
Moran said the true number of young people sustaining knife and other sharp object injuries was higher because the figures did not include those treated in A&E or at walk-in centres or urgent care centres.
The number of admissions among people aged 20 to 29 has also risen, from 1,558 in 2012-13 to 1,937 in 2017-18.
Duncan Bew, the clinical director for major trauma and surgery at King’s College hospital in London, said: “We have seen this upward trend ourselves and it’s very concerning. It’s heartbreaking that so many young people are coming to such harm.
“We see victims of knife crime from the age of 10 or 11 upwards, though the big increase we’ve seen in recent years has been in those aged between 10 and 20, and especially 13 to 17. Violence is a spectrum. We treat young people who have suffered a single, individual stab wound, perhaps to a limb, and also those who have suffered more than 10 knife injuries all over their body.”
Sarah Jones, the chair of parliament’s all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, said: “A 60% rise in young victims of knife crime is an abhorrent indictment of our failure to grip this epidemic. The NHS is right to warn of the human cost of knife crime and to highlight the benefits of youth workers in some of our hospitals. But the health sector needs to take more of a lead, fund this type of work more widely and put in place a comprehensive public health approach to tackling youth violence.”
Martin Griffiths, a consultant trauma surgeon and lead for trauma surgery at the Royal London hospital, said his hospital saw on average two stabbing victims a day. “You never forget the sound a mother makes when given the devastating news that her child has died,” he said. “I see the wasted opportunities of young people stuck on hospital wards with life-changing injuries.”
Knife crime affects all ages but especially young people. The overall number of victims of all ages who ended up in hospital after being stabbed rose from 3,888 in 2012-13 to 4,986 last year, a near 30% rise.
John Poyton, the chief executive of the charity Redthread, which works to reduce youth violence, said the NHS’s establishment of a network of regional major trauma networks in 2012 had increased the chances of young stab victims surviving.
“Violence is a predictor of wider health inequalities and knife crime victims admitted to major trauma wards are just the tip of the iceberg. We know that young people attend their local A&E four to five times before admitted with a more serious, life-threatening injury,” he said.
“We must urgently invest in NHS support for all young people caught up in all forms of violence if we hope to reverse this trend and safeguard our young people.”