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Knife crime risk: government proposes legal duty for nurses to raise concerns

Consultation suggests staff should report warning signs among young people 

Consultation suggests staff should report warning signs among young people 


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Nurses in England and Wales may soon have a legal duty to raise concerns about young people at risk of becoming involved in knife crime. 

The home secretary Sajid Javid has launched an eight-week consultation to decide on the scope of a multi-agency ‘public health duty’ to flag concerns about risk of serious violence.

The Home Office said the proposed duty would help to spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger, such as presenting in an emergency department with a suspicious injury, or displaying worrying behaviour at school.

Questioning voice

But the RCN has questioned the plan’s implications for nurses. 

The college’s acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘Nursing staff already play a key role in safeguarding patients, whether that’s working in the community, in schools or in hospitals.

‘It’s unclear how putting a further obligation on our members, already working incredibly hard to do all they can for patients, will prevent violent crime.’

No barriers

Professor Kinnair said it was important that people faced no barriers when seeking healthcare, especially in life-threatening circumstances.

‘The first duty of healthcare workers is to treat and care for patients, and it’s important that people aren’t deterring from seeking help for fear of being reported,’ she added.

Long-term change

Mr Javid said he would use all the resources at his disposal to stem the rise of violent crime.

‘The public health, multi-agency approach has a proven track record,’ he said, ‘and I’m confident that making it a legal duty will help stop this senseless violence and create long-term change.’

The consultation opens today and closes on 28 May. 

Stark statistics

A study from King's College Hospital, London found that in just one year between August 2016 and July 2017, a total of 478 ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries were treated in its emergency department. 

The researchers found that 83% of cases were caused by interpersonal violence, which included assault with knives, glass and firearms. 

Complex issue

Study co-author and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust lead trauma nurse Carole Olding said: ‘It is not okay for this to be happening to young people, and the cause and the resolution of this is complex.

‘Stitching them up is easy but sending them back onto the streets where it happened, with the scars you can see and those you can’t, is difficult.

‘How will they be next time they come in? That is the question you ask yourself.’

A summit on serious youth violence is being held at Downing Street this week, bringing together more than 100 experts to discuss the issue.


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