Thousands of victims as young as 11 end up in hospital because of assaults including knife attacks each year, figures suggest.
Around half of the NHS hospital trusts in England provided data to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime, showing that 4,502 young people aged 11 to 25 attended an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre in 2018 for a weapon enabled assault or an assault resulting in a wound.
Of 148 trusts asked for data under Freedom of Information laws, 87 provided figures, leading experts to believe the true number is much higher.
John Poyton, chief executive of Redthread, a charity that works in emergency departments to deter young people from violence, said: “These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, with the real number of young people attending hospital after assault with a weapon likely to be much higher.”
Chief executive of Barnardo’s Javed Khan said: “To truly understand the scale of the problem and the root causes, it’s vital healthcare professionals know what’s going on in their area and keep accurate data and share information appropriately to help keep children safe.”
The figures were released as Health Secretary Matt Hancock was set to lead a workshop on the role of the health service in tackling youth violence at 10 Downing Street.
A knife crime summit called by the Prime Minister is taking place this week amid a rise in violence in England, particularly stabbings.
Chairwoman of the APPG Sarah Jones said: “Today’s figures show how stark this crisis is with thousands of young people being hospitalised by violence. But it’s worrying that almost half of NHS trusts were unable to give us accurate information on young knife victims.
“We have been calling for a public health approach to knife crime for some time so it’s encouraging that the Prime Minister has finally accepted this.
“But the first part of a public health response is about diagnosing the problem – we can’t do that unless we know where the violence epidemic is most acute.”
NHS Digital gathers national data on injuries with a knife or sharp object, and in February said that admissions had increased by nearly a third since 2012-13, from 3,849 to 4,986 last year.
Admissions involving children and young people aged between 10 and 19 increased nearly twice as fast, with 656 hospital admissions in 2012-13 up to 1,012 last year – a rise of 54%.
A spokesman for the NHS said: “Violent crime destroys lives, and with official stats showing a steep rise in the number of people – particularly worryingly teenagers – needing urgent hospital care for wounds in recent years, it’s clear that this problem has grown, and as the NHS delivers our Long Term Plan for the health service we will improve urgent care, building on progress which has saved 1,600 extra lives through better trauma services.”