Minister for crime prevention previews new St Mary's project to tackle youth gang violence

Government minister Norman Baker visited the Trust’s major trauma centre on 15 October to learn about a new service which aims to tackle youth gang violence.

The youth violence intervention project, due to start at the end of the month, will bring specialist youth workers from Redthread, an organisation that has over nine years’ experience helping children and young people change their risky lifestyles, into the major trauma centre to connect with the victims and perpetrators of violence.

Engaging with young people involved in dangerous behaviour when they are most vulnerable, for example, while being treated after being assaulted, provides a critical opportunity. This ‘teachable moment’, when the young person needs help and may be willing to engage, is an invaluable chance to enable these individuals to make positive steps away from their current lifestyles. Once a relationship has been built, the youth worker team will work with local partners to offer a variety of on-going support based on the varied needs of young people.

The new youth violence intervention project is the result of a partnership between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Redthread and Imperial College Healthcare Charity which has helped partners and funders work together to make the initiative possible. It is joint-funded by Imperial College Healthcare Charity; the Home Office; the boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster; MOPAC; The NWL Major Trauma Network; and other third sector partners.

The major trauma centre at St Mary’s Hospital is uniquely positioned to access and help change the lives of those involved in youth violence. As one of four centres of its kind in London, the centre receives over 2,500 major trauma calls every year.

The major trauma centre at St Mary’s Hospital comprises specialist teams and individuals from over a dozen departments and specialities including the emergency department, critical care and neurosurgery who come together each day to save the lives of people not only affected by youth or gang-related violence, but also trauma caused by road traffic incidents, serious accidents and falls from height. The centre provides a 24-hour consultant-led service for both adults and children and has some of the top survival scores in the country. According to a recent peer review, the centre has two to three additional survivors per 100 patients treated to the national average.

In the 2012-2013 year, 498 of 2500 patients at St Mary’s major trauma centre were aged 11 to 25, the targeted age range for the project. More than one third of these youths were injured as a result of stabbings, gunshot wounds or wounds inflicted by blunt instruments. In addition, there are hundreds of young people brought to the emergency department who may not be as severely injured physically but are victims of serious youth related sexual violence and exploitation. Other young people who lead risky lifestyles may have mental health issues which may have contributed to physical injury, for example through self-harm. By integrating social support into these patients’ care, it is hoped the service will provide a more long-term and holistic solution to the violence they have encountered.

Dr Asif Rahman, consultant in adult and paediatric emergency medicine at the Trust, said: “In 2013 we were seeing about 11 serious stabbings and one gunshot wound each month and it really kick-started that we needed to do something about it. Hospitals are a very good place for that ‘teachable moment’ and we're lucky there are so many people who want to help. It’s about forming that bridge from the hospital into the community, so that when these young people leave the hospital, they stick with these programmes and hopefully don’t come back.”

John Poyton, the chief executive of Redthread, said: “This would not have been made possible without the support of Imperial College Healthcare Charity, which has acted as a catalyst for the whole project. We’re excited to be working with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to help young people break their cycles of violence and assault.”

The youth violence intervention project is part of a wider £1million Major Trauma Centre Appeal by Imperial College Healthcare Charity. Launched at the start of 2014, it has already raised close to £700,000 for the centre which will help fund ground breaking new pieces of research, new pieces of equipment, and training for staff that will further strengthen the centre’s ability to manage an increasing rate of trauma activity in London.

For more information about the project, which is part of Imperial College Healthcare Charity’s major trauma appeal, visit the website: