Hospital admissions for youths assaulted with sharp objects up almost 60%

Teenagers accounted for more than 1,000 admissions to hospital as a result of assaults with a knife or sharp object last year, NHS figures show.

Admissions for all injuries caused by an assault with knife or other sharp objects have gone up by almost a third since 2012-13, from 3,849 to 4,986 last year.

However, admissions involving youngsters aged between 10 and 19 increased nearly twice as fast, with 656 hospital admissions in 2012-13 up to 1,012 last year – a rise of around 55%.

Doctors warned that high street sales of knives is helping to fuel the rise in stabbings, and called on retailers to do more to stem the tide of available weapons.

One of England’s top trauma surgeons revealed that in one London trust alone, two people a day are admitted to hospital with a stabbing injury, having a devastating effect on families and placing avoidable pressure on NHS staff.

Prof Chris Moran, national clinical director for trauma, NHS England, said: “Violent crime destroys lives, devastates families, and diverts doctors’ time away from other essential patient care.

“Changes to NHS trauma services have saved an extra 1,600 lives in recent years, but hospital visits linked to knife crime and other violence is a major cause for concern and puts extra pressure on our expert staff.

“The NHS Long Term Plan sets out more improvements to emergency care services across the country, with more people able to get faster urgent care without the need for an overnight stay in hospital.

“However, 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.”

The NHS warning about the rising human cost of knife crime comes as government confirms it is considering tougher laws for people carrying a weapon, and a series of high profile incidents involving this type of attack.

Many high street shops are breaking the law by selling knives to young people, with eight out of 10 retailers in one part of the country found to have done so.

Figures published recently by the Office for National Statistics show an 8% increase in the number of recorded knife crimes in the year ending September 2018, with violent crime overall rising by 19%.

Health service data show that there were 4,986 instances where people were treated for knife or sharp object injuries, many of whom will need long-lasting care for both the mental and physical impact of their trauma.

Martin Griffiths, consultant trauma surgeon and lead for trauma surgery at The Royal London Hospital, said: “We see on average two stabbings every day. It’s a lot, but looking after people is what we do and we’re rightly proud of our hospital teams as world-leaders in the care that we give.

“But it doesn’t stop with us. A stabbing has relentless repercussions that stretch far beyond the victim.

“You never forget the sound a mother makes when given the devastating news that her child has died. I see the wasted opportunities of young people stuck on hospital wards with life-changing injuries. Friends don’t always visit, they carry on with their lives; and some will later join us.

“Since 2013, working with charity St Giles Trust we have successfully reduced retaliation violence and the number of young people returning to us with further violent injuries, down from over 45% to less than 1%.  Our research shows that a targeted approach by the community may help break the cycle of youth violence.”

The recently published NHS Long Term Plan for the health service set out improvements to emergency care.

It will build on progress achieved by the creation of a shake-up of trauma services.

Major trauma centres, introduced in 2012, have improved care so that around 1,600 more people survived severe and complicated injuries than would previously have done so.

In 2017/18, 4,986 admissions to hospital were a result of knife or sharp object assault injuries. People aged 20-29 accounted for more than 1,900 episodes of consultant care – an increase for this age group of 24% since 2012/13.

Cases involving all young people – those aged 10-29 – made up nearly two-thirds (60%) of all admissions.

The data produced by NHS Digital records the number of consultations given for patients with injuries from an assault with knives or sharp objects.