Press Release on The Management of Knife Injuries

Paul Rowe, chair of the Surgical Foundation, joined The Metropolitan Police Services Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, victims' families and specialist youth and education workers today, Friday 23 March, to launch a hard-hitting new DVD that will be used as part of a major schools programme to help persuade pupils not to get involved in serious youth violence.

The DVD, which contains powerful descriptions by leading surgeons of the potentially life-changing physical consequences of being stabbed, interviews with the mother, brother and sister of Zac Olumegbon on the effect the tragic stabbing of the 15-year-old had on their lives, as well as testimony from a specialist Territorial Support Group paramedic and a King's College Hospital youth worker.

It will be shown to first year secondary school students (Year 7) as part of an interactive lesson delivered through the tailored education preventative programme Growing Against Gangs and Violence (GAGV), which has to date reached 8,350 pupils in 70 schools across eight boroughs and aims to extend to another 280 schools in the next 18 months.

The launch also saw the Commissioner and Paul Rowe, chair of The Surgical Foundation, the charitable arm of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, (ASGBI) renew their commitment to police and surgeons working together to help tackle the scourge of knife/gun crime and gangs and advocate an increase in data sharing on hospital admissions so that police resources can be more effectively tailored to target the areas where the most crimes occur.

It is also hoped that an increased number of surgeons will commit to taking part in the visits to schools that have proved very successful for the 'Weapons, Choices and Consequences' lesson given to 11-12-year-olds that the new DVD will comprise a key part of.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "We need to stop young people carrying knives - it leads to people being killed or maimed.

"Today we launch a DVD to be used in our schools. It will be a discussion point which attempts to educate and inform young people about the consequences of knife crime. This is one element of a partnership between surgeons, victims' families and the police.

"We hope that this work in schools will lead to less people carrying knives and less people being killed or injured."

Paul Rowe, chair of The Surgical Foundation, said: "Surgeons are on the frontline of dealing with the consequences of violent crime in the operating theatre. So working alongside the police and charities to tackle knife crime makes perfect sense."

Nick Mason, strategic lead for GAGV, said: "Serious youth violence has a significant impact on young people, their families and the wider community. We need to more effectively address the attitudes and negative influences that support and lead to offending behaviour and educate young people about making safe choices.

"Our schools programme plays an important part in this work, and we are very grateful for the support of the surgeons to date, as well as their commitment to extending their involvement.

"We know from feedback in the classroom that their presence really enforces the power of the positive messages we are conveying. We also hope that our efforts to increase appropriate data sharing will help build a more accurate picture of who serious youth violence is affecting, and where and when it is taking place, thus enabling all of the agencies involved to better target resources."

GAGV hopes to have reached 13,000 young people by the end of this summer, and is currently developing new lessons including on 'sexting'
and cyber-bullying, and urban disorder and group dynamics, to add to the four it already delivers. GAGV lessons are all carefully planned by leading experts in the field, and form part of an integrated structured curriculum plan. The sessions incorporate drama, debate and discussions
- and are given to all pupils universally.

Other lessons the programme delivers include 'Friends v Friendly' (to Year 6, 9-10 year-olds), Myths and Realities [of gangs] (to Year 7,
11-12 year olds) and Girls, Gangs and Consequences (Yr 10, 14-15-year-olds). The latter lesson is now supported officially by the Home Office as best practice, and GAGV in general has already had interest from other cities in the UK and from USA.

"In reality, the only way to tackle knife crime is to address the psychology behind it," explained Dr James Densley, one of the co-authors of the GAGV programme. "Most young people who carry weapons do so to protect themselves in areas they perceive to be unsafe. Even weapons intended to protect are liable to endanger. Only by breaking the gang culture conducive to carrying and using knives, can knife crime be resolved."

Figures for hospital admissions show that about 5,000 people are admitted to the NHS each year with stab wounds, a 50% increase over the last 10 years. The median age of the victim is declining with the
under-16 admission rate increased by two thirds.

The latest available figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in financial year (Apr 1-31 March) 2010-2011 there were 6,724 admissions for all types of assaults, of which 1,262 were caused by knives/sharp objects, compared to the same period the previous year 2009-2010, when there were 6,563 admissions for all assaults, of which 1,214 were for knives/sharp objects.

In terms of firearms, no London figures are available, but figures on national admissions from 300 NHS and primary care trusts show that there were 3,866 total admissions for assaults in financial year 2010-11, of which 910 were due to injury from guns. Figures for admissions do not necessarily equate to individuals.

The London Trauma Centre which acts as a central hub to monitor and gather information capital-wide on trauma admissions has been leading work on establishing better data sharing practice. Currently, key statistical information from emergency rooms is only shared on an ad-hoc basis, and while there have been instances where admissions data has enabled police to intervene successfully in small geographic areas in a number of specific instances, the MPS and ASGBI are keen to see a comprehensive detailed protocol that would enable more consistent, effective data sharing to be carried out across the capital.

The ASGBI is committed to getting its member surgeons to work to set this up in their local hospitals, and key players from all the statutory stake-holders involved, are due to meet together for the first time ever at the end of April, after which it is hoped significant progress will be made towards improvements in this area.