A dramatic illustration of the extent of the knife crime epidemic emerged today as London Ambulance Service revealed a large increase in victims it had rushed to hospital.
It took 1,542 patients who had suffered “penetrating injury” to the capital’s four major trauma centres last year, up 17 per cent on the previous year.
Just over half, 773, were found in the street. A third had suffered multiple stab wounds. The average age of victims was 24.
Eighteen teenagers have been murdered with knives in London this year. Last week, Jason Isaacs and Kacem Mokrane, both 18, died following separate suspected gang attacks near their homes in Northolt and Walthamstow.
The LAS figures reveal a total of 6,068 patients – about 17 a day – were taken to the major trauma centres at St Mary’s, St George’s, King’s College hospital and the Royal London in the 12 months to April.
This was up 960 on the previous year. More than 70 per cent of patients had suffered “blunt trauma”, such as being hit by a car, bus or train, or a weapon such as a baseball bat, or had been injured in a fall.
Almost 400 of the patients were children under 12.
The penetrating trauma cases included random impaling injuries and attacks with weapons such as screwdrivers, but the bulk related to knife wounds.
Dr Neil Thomson, LAS deputy medical director, said the figures for penetrating injury were not a “direct indication of knife crime”.
LAS statistics showed that stab wounds to the abdomen increased from 281 to 293, while those to the thorax (chest) rose from 411 to 422.
Dr Thomson told the Standard: “What the report does show is that these are, to a large extent, young people. Penetrating trauma definitely seems to be a bigger problem in younger people. That ties in with the Met [police crime] figures and the work that charities are doing to address knife crime.
“With penetrating trauma, the median age is low, and that is an absolute tragedy. These are young people with what may look like a relatively innocuous wound that can have devastating consequences internally.”
The increase in blunt trauma was attributed to falls in an increasingly elderly population – so-called “silver trauma”.
Pensioners are often on blood-thinning medication to protect them from heart attack or stroke, but this can mean that a seemingly innocuous fall causes major bleeding.
The report revealed that emergency medics were typically on scene in seven minutes – the new national target for the most serious calls.
Victims of penetrating trauma reached hospital a further 17 minutes later on average, while those who had suffered blunt trauma arrived 39 minutes after the first ambulance arrived at the scene.
This is due to the knowledge that knife victims require urgent investigation in hospital to ascertain the extent of their wounds, while victims of blunt trauma, such as road collisions, may need to be stabilised and have bones splinted before they can be moved.
St Mary’s, in Paddington, received most trauma cases, a total of 2,055, followed by the Royal London, in Whitechapel, on 1,874. King’s College, in Denmark Hill, handled 1,129 and St George’s, in Tooting, 971. All hospitals except St Mary’s have a helipad, meaning they also receive critically ill patients from across the South-East.
The greatest number of trauma cases was in Croydon, with 311, followed by 299 in Lambeth and 257 in Brent.
Lambeth had most penetrating trauma cases – 98 – followed by Enfield on 85 and Croydon on 81.
- An edited version of this article appeared in last night’s Evening Standard.