A&E patients could help reduce violent crime

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Patients attending A&E departments at Scottish hospitals could play a vital role in reducing violent crime, according to a report published recently by researchers in Wales. 

Anonymised information about violent attacks was gathered by medical staff in A&E depts in the test study in Wales.  Staff were asked to record the time, place and date of violent incidents as well as the weapons used.  No personally identifying information was collected, and patient confidentiality was respected.

The information amassed was passed daily to the local police force.  Police were then able to identify ‘hot-spots’ and deploy extra officers to reduce the risk of further incidences of violence.  According to the study incidences of violent crime decreased by 42% in the test area.

The SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has now written to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill pressing him to adopt the scheme in Scotland.  Mr Maxwell has been campaigning for a similar reporting system for violent crime since 2006.  The MSP believes that the findings of the Welsh study provide strong evidence to support his claim that such a system of reporting would significantly reduce the incidence of violent crime, especially violence associated with late night drinking in city and town centres.

Mr Maxwell said: “The World Health Organisation has stated that it hopes to see this model introduced across the world as a key strategy for crime prevention.

“I believe that implementing this system alongside the SNP government’s plans to reintroduce a minimum price for alcohol would represent a significant step forward in making Scotland safe from alcohol-fuelled violence and crime.”    

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “We strongly support this initiative which has a proven record of reducing incidents of violent crime as well as reducing costs to A&E departments.

“The Violence Reduction Unit is currently supporting pilots of injury surveillance in a number of hospitals in Lanarkshire.

“Evaluation and learning around these pilots is ongoing and the lessons from these will be used in any further roll out.”