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Surgeons and police in Birmingham to work together to reduce knife crime

05 September 2011

A conference, held today (06 Sep) in Birmingham, will see local surgeons and police officers come together for the first time in the city to discuss a joint initative for reducing knife crime. Saving Lives: Reducing Violence will look at innovative practices, including educational workshops, information sharing, and injury training, to try and reduce violence across the West Midlands. The conference, organised jointly by the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and West Midlands Police, will hear how health professionals, police, youth agencies and other charities in the city could work collaboratively to help reduce the 4,600 hospital admissions which occur each year in England due to knife assaults. The initiative is already proving to be a success in London, where it was first piloted.

Surgeons believe there are three key areas where they could contribute more effectively to help prevent incidents of knife crime, and reduce the harm caused when it does occur:

  • Working in the community to help prevent injuries: surgeons can play a practical role alongside community organisations and charities to provide education to at-risk groups, particularly young people, on the long-term chronic health effects of surviving knife injuries.
  • Improving information sharing: medical teams in emergency departments can help identify where high profile policing can be most effective in preventing injuries by logging and sharing anonymous data such as location, time, patient demographics and weapon type used in assaults.
  • Targeted stab injury training for surgeons and roll out of regional trauma centres: medical techniques for dealing with penetrating, sharp injuries are very different from the ‘blunt’ injuries which make up the majority of trauma cases. Specific surgical training and protocols to direct patients to the most suitable hospitals improve outcomes.

Professor John MacFie, President of the ASGBI, said:

“Being able to map where injuries caused by knife crime are likely to happen is not only beneficial for preventative policing, but it helps to organise skilled surgeons to be in the right place, at the right time to deal with these complex, unpredictable injuries. Although knife wounds remain a relatively small part of the surgical workload in most local hospitals, they can be fatal or leave patients with chronic health problems. Working to prevent them by educating at-risk groups in schools and improving information sharing, is very valuable. Improving specialist training for surgeons likely to treat this group of patients is essential to improve patient outcomes.”

In London, a similar initiative has proved successful. Educational programme, Growing Against Gangs and Violence (GaGV) has visited 55 schools across 5 London boroughs, with support from surgeons, discussing the choices and consequences of violence and wounding with Y6 and Y7 pupils (10 to 12-year-olds). Funding has recently been secured to extend the project to encompass 280 schools across 15 London boroughs. In addition, The Barts and the London Major Trauma centre piloted a one day Damage Control Surgery course to teach immediately life-threatening surgical techniques for the management of severely injured trauma patients. 

The ASGBI is aiming to roll out this model across its national network of lead surgeons in every UK hospital via charity the Surgical Foundation. Funding of £147,000 is required for the educational and preventative programme, and donations can be made via www.thesurgicalfoundation.org.uk. Health care professionals can find out more about sharing simple anonymised data with Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships

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Notes to Editors

1. The Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) is an association representing general surgery and all its related specialities throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

2. The Surgical Foundation, the charitable arm of the ASGBI, came into existence to enhance the educational and research opportunities for trauma and its treatment. Trauma is one of the world’s leading killers, and is responsible for the loss of more life years than any disease – yet educational resource directed to it does not match that afforded most diseases. www.thesurgicalfoundation.org.uk 

3. If you have any media queries please contact:
Matthew Worrall    – Email: mworrall@rcseng.ac.uk; T: 020 7869 6047
Elaine Towell        – Email: etowell@rcseng.ac.uk; T: 020 7869 6045
Out-of-hours: 07966 486 832