Rising number of youngsters taken to hospital with knife wounds, figures suggest

Teenagers accounted for more than 1,000 admissions to hospital with knife or sharp object wounds last year – and the number is rising, data suggests.

Figures for England show the number of hospital admissions among the age group has jumped 54% from 656 in 2012-13 to 1,012 in 2017-2018.

Admissions for knife and sharp object injuries – such as glass – including across all age groups have gone up by almost a third (30%) since 2012, from 3,849 to 4,986 last year.

The data shows people aged 20 to 29 accounted for more than 1,900 of the 4,986 cases noted in 2017-18.

Those aged 10 to 29 made up 60% of the cases.

Hospital admissions for assault with a sharp object patients aged 10-19 years
Hospital admissions for assault with a sharp object patients aged 10-19 years

A trauma surgeon at one London hospital said he saw two stabbings a day.

Professor Chris Moran, national clinical director for trauma at 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.”

NHS England said some high street shops are breaking the law by selling knives to young people.

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.”

He added: “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.”

The new figures, compiled by NHS Digital, chime with crime statistics that have sparked warnings of a knife violence “epidemic”.

On Thursday, it was revealed the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales has hit its highest level since records started more than 70 years ago.

Official statistics show there were 285 homicides where the method of killing was by a knife or sharp instrument, in the year to March 2018.

This was an increase of 73 compared with 2016-17 and the highest number since the Home Office’s Homicide Index began in 1946.

Last week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced plans for new knife crime prevention orders that could be imposed on suspects aged 12 or over.

Police voiced support for the powers but critics have warned they risked unnecessarily criminalising young people.

The NHS Digital figures for 2017-18 cannot be broken down any further into individual ages.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are very concerned about the increase in knife crime and its devastating consequences. Our serious violence strategy sets out the action we are taking to tackle this, which includes a greater focus on early intervention, alongside strong enforcement.

“The Government is also seeking to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill to introduce new knife crime prevention orders which will focus on preventing vulnerable young people from becoming involved in knife crime. We will also be taking further action against retailers found to be selling knives to children.”