Gang violence: why all nurses must remain vigilant

The heartbreaking fallout of gang violence is affecting nurses across London, the RCN’s new regional director for the capital has said

The heartbreaking fallout of gang violence is affecting nurses across London, the RCN’s new regional director for the capital has said

Jude Diggins has spoken exclusively to Nursing Standard over her concerns for safety and staff burnout when dealing with the results of gang violence.

‘It is absolutely horrendous. People often think this is just about emergency nurses, but this is actually about nurses across the whole spectrum,’ she said.

Watch Ms Diggins talk about her priorities for nursing in the capital


Ms Diggins took over from the long-serving RCN London director Bernell Bussue at the start of this month.

A former children and adult nurse, she first joined the RCN in 2016 after 22 years in the NHS.

Born in Dublin, Ms Diggins worked in her native country before climbing the ranks in England, eventually becoming an interim executive director for nursing at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Jude Diggins
Jude Diggins

Commenting on knife and gun crime in London that has claimed more than 50 lives so far this year, Ms Diggins said: ‘Health visitors and children’s community nurses, who work in the more deprived areas, are seeing horrendous situations, where children are dropping out of school and – at 12 or 13 years old – are earning £1,000-a-week to be drug mules around the capital.

‘Our nurses are seeing this firsthand and of course there are the nurses in A&E seeing major traumas. Whether it is gunshot wounds, knife wounds, they are seeing that every day. It is the new norm unfortunately.’


She said nurses are heartbroken by what they see and are frustrated by the lack of support for those they treat.

Ms Diggins added: ‘Children and young people mental health services are at breaking point, trying to deal with the mental health fallout of all of this – our adult mental health services are in a similar position.

‘Nurses are seeing violence literally everywhere, from the school yard, all the way to the mortuary.’

How to stay safe when working in crime-hit areas

  • Where possible walk with a colleague to take public transport
  • Carry an alarm
  • Make sure people know your diary, so the alarm can be raised quickly
  • Avoid working alone in crime hotspots
  • Double up and work together late at night in dangerous areas
  • Remain vigilant at all times


RCN conference

Ms Diggins said under the circumstances it is hard for nurses to remain hopeful, but the RCN intends to host a conference in July on gang violence to raise awareness.

The conference is being led by RCNi Awards 2015 Mental Health Award winner Dorcas Gwata, who works with a broad range of groups across Westminster to tackle gang problems.

She will be joined by people who have managed to leave gang life behind.

Read the RCN London director's latest message

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