2017 saw the highest number of stab victims treated at King’s College Hospital since records began, a new study by specialist head and neck surgeons has shown.
According to data collected by maxillofacial surgeons at King’s, 478 patients with ‘penetrating injuries’ – or, stab wounds and gunshot injuries – were treated by the Denmark Hill hospital’s emergency department between 2016 and 2017, an increase of almost 20 per cent compared to the previous year. Sixty-five of them needed treatment for head or neck injuries.
In 2010, when comparable records began, the overall number treated was much lower – at 172.
The victims were mostly male (82 per cent) but show a growing number of women affected.
Although cases involved self-harm and injuries caused in the 2017 terror attacks, the majority of cases were are categorised as a result of ‘interpersonal violence’.
The study’s authors cannot define how many of these are ‘gang’ related. However, as a significant minority of those injured are admitted to King’s from outer London boroughs and Kent, this appears to back up claims that the ‘county lines’ drug trade is bringing serious violence to areas outside the capital.
Although the victims’ ages ranged from thirteen to a seventy-one-year-old, their average age was 25, and around half the injuries took place within Southwark and Lambeth.
A wide range of weapons were used in the attacks, from knives, guns and bottles, a Samurai sword, and nail guns.
The report author, James Olding, said: “Working on call and overnight in oral and maxillofacial surgery in one of London’s busiest trauma centres, I see more and more patients affected by violence trauma, including knife injuries.
“Traumatic injuries to the face are particularly devastating, both physically and psychologically.
“The face is socially the most important and visible part of the body.
“That is why I decided with my consultant Kathy Fan to carry out the study to see if the numbers and facts corresponded with my own experiences and observations.”
He hopes a greater understanding of the number of people treated at the trauma unit and the circumstances involved can help other hospitals prepare their staff to deal with growing levels of serious violence – especially hospitals without the resources and expertise at King’s.
Fellow author Kathy Fan said: “It is important to understand the cycle of violence and how to intervene in order to break the cycle, protect children and vulnerable adults, and prevent morbidity and mortality from such crime and violence.”