Sixty-five of the 478 patients treated for stab, slash or gunshot injuries at King’s between 2016 and 2017 had injuries to the head and neck.
The specialist surgeons who treated them – who work in a field called oral maxillofacial surgery – have published a new report that lays bare the severity of these violent injuries.
Their skill is incredible – and honed from having both a medicine and dentistry degree before even completing their surgical training.
In some cases, they are quite literally putting someone’s face back together.
There is no set way for the doctors and nurses treating often catastrophic injuries like these to be sure whether or not they are the result of a ‘gang’ injury.
At the mention of a possible weapon involved, or the police, patients can abscond.
And – as the study’s authors point out – it is likely that the true scale of injuries is much higher as not everyone will visit A&E.
When someone is slashed in the face, and maimed in such a visible way, it is particularly traumatic and can serve as a permanent reminder, making it hard to escape the past.
The study’s authors say some of these attacks point to ‘Glasgow smile’ style incidents, a deliberate ‘marking’ to send a message.
Other cases, such as during the 2017 terror attacks, are indicative of deep, frenzied attacks – stabbing to kill.
There are also incidents of domestic violence, robberies, and self-harm in the group.
Admissions from the outer reaches of London, and far into Kent are also rising, which the study’s authors say is likely due to ‘country lines’ drug dealing.
Whereas King’s is a major trauma unit, smaller towns, for example coastal regions, can be less well-placed to cope with a surge in injuries of this nature and the complexities of their treatment.
Although we all want violent crime to stop, until that happens, hopefully this report can help our hospitals be as prepared as possible.