'Worrying gaps' in NHS data could be underestimating knife crime crisis, MPs warn

Posted On: 
3rd April 2019

At least 12 young victims of knife crime attend accident and emergency departments every day, MPs have warned, as they flagged "worrying gaps" in the way the NHS records youth violence.

MPs fear the actual number of victims could be much higher
Credit: 
PA Images

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime surveyed NHS hospital trusts in England to find over 4,500 11-to-25-year olds visited A&E after an assault by a knife or other weapon last year.

But with responses only received by 58% of trusts, MPs fear the actual number of victims could be much higher - predicting that there could be 21 victims a day based on their analysis of the figures.

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APPG chair Sarah Jones said: “With knife crime at record levels, the incredible work of our NHS staff has never been more important. They are saving young lives every day.

“Today’s figures show how stark this crisis is with thousands of young people being hospitalised by violence.

“But it’s worrying that almost half of NHS trusts were unable to give us accurate information on young knife victims.”

The group says NHS Digital’s recording of knife crime victims only when admitted to hospital underestimates the true number of those affected.

The figures were unveiled in the week that more than 100 experts gathered in Downing Street for a knife crime summit with ministers.

In a third day of talks today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will lead talks on the role of the health sector in tackling the violence epidemic.

Ms Jones added: “We have been calling for a public health approach to knife crime for some time so it’s encouraging that the Prime Minister has finally accepted this.

“But as we heard from health experts this week, the first part of a public health response is about diagnosing the problem - we can’t do that unless we know where the violence epidemic is most acute.”

In response to the APPG’s findings, an NHS spokesperson said: “Violent crime destroys lives, and with official stats showing a steep rise in the number of people - particularly worryingly teenagers - needing urgent hospital care for wounds in recent years, it's clear that this problem has grown.

“As the NHS delivers our Long Term Plan for the health service we will improve urgent care, building on progress which has saved 1,600 extra lives through better trauma services."