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Matt Hancock at Croydon hospital 4

Matt Hancock opens Croydon hospital’s new A&E department

New measures to better equip “local” hospitals to deal with the consequences of knife crime are being rolled out across London.

Croydon is one of five district general hospitals that will have youth workers embedded in A&E to encourage young victims of crime to steer clear of gangs.

An electronic alert system that alerts council social services teams if “looked after” children have an unexpected hospital visit is now in use Londonwide.

This enables early intervention and safeguarding checks to see if they have become victims of gangs, trafficking or exploitation.

Charities such as Redthread and St Giles Trust already work in the capital’s four major trauma centres, such as St Mary’s and the Royal London hospitals.

The Homerton, in Hackney, last year became the first “local” hospital to introduce youth workers.

Since October 2018 the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has funded Oasis to provide specialist support to young victims of violence in North Middlesex and St Thomas’ hospitals.

MOPAC has identified a further five priority A&Es without youth work services which have high numbers of young people presenting as victims of violent crime and which are in boroughs that have high levels of knife crime. These are:

  • Newham
    •    Queen Elizabeth, Woolwich
    •    Croydon
    •    Lewisham
    •    Whittington

Croydon, which had its £21m redeveloped A&E opened on May 20 by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, has won City Hall funding for a two-year service from October.

Matt Hancock at Croydon hospital 3

Emergency doctors and nurses told Mr Hancock that teenage knife crime and mental health were the two biggest “growth areas” of concern.

Last week a 13-year-old and 14-year-old were admitted with knife injuries. The hospital typically sees a teenage victim of serious violence every week. It also treats about 60 people under 18 suffering from mental health issues.

The new A&E is 30 per cent bigger than the department it replaces. It includes two adult mental health rooms and one for children. Attendances are up 16 per cent year-on-year. The hospital sees about 400 A&E patients a day.

Dr Kathryn Channing, the lead emergency care consultant, told Mr Hancock: “The number of mental health patients has absolutely sky-rocketed. This morning we had seven waiting. If we had to go back and build it again, we would probably need a suite of six [adult] rooms.”

Better information-sharing was one idea to emerge from the recent Downing Street knife crime summits. The CP-IS (Child Protection – Information Sharing) system is part of a “public health” approach to tacking the spate of killings by treating it like an infectious disease.

Matt Hancock at Croydon hospital 2

Mr Hancock unveiled a plaque in memory of two former nurses, Hassina Fowle and Audrey Cross, who both died from cancer.

Mr Hancock, who said he was a “massive fan” of the public health approach, said he wanted more interventions at a “teachable moment”, when young people are more receptive to being diverted from gangs. (He said previous comments to LBC Radio about the public health approach had been taken out of context.)

Mr Hancock told the Standard: “There are some hotspots in London which have more knife crime cases than elsewhere.

“Our task is to ensure everyone gets the treatment they need but not just for the physical injury, but the wider support, so if they’re involved in gangs and knife crime we can help them escape that life.”

Matt Hancock at Croydon hospital 1

Natasha Pereira and daughter Paris with Matt Hancock

Asked what form of Brexit was best for the NHS, he replied: “We need an orderly exit, we have to deliver on the results of the referendum, but we don’t need a disorderly Brexit. We need to leave with a deal. That is the best thing for the country. That is the best thing for the NHS.”

  • An edited version of this story appeared in the Evening Standard.