Martin Griffiths, (above) lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London hospital, was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning in response to the London death toll from stabbings and shootings reaching 50 victims this year.
He said that in the 1980s, knife and gun injuries were a “relatively uncommon, niche injury”.
He said: “Now it’s our core work. About a quarter of what we see in our practice is knife and gun injury. Now we are doing major life-saving cases on a daily basis.
“Some of my military colleagues have described their practice here as being similar to being at [Camp] Bastion, [The UK base during the Afghanistan war] which is a very worrying thing to hear.
“As a clinician, we are now doing major interventions on younger and younger people who require operations which we only used to describe in years gone by.
“We routinely have children under our care – 13, 14, 15-year-olds are daily occurrences [coming in with] knife and gun wounds.
“The thing to understand about our practice now is that we used to look after people in their 20s. Now people are often in their mid to late teens, and children in school uniforms are being admitted under our care with knife and gun wounds.”
Figures provided by Barts Heath NHS Trust reveal that the Royal London, one of the capital’s four major trauma centres, treated 163 stabbing victims between January 1 and April 2 and 23 victims of shotgun wounds. Over the same period the previous year, it treated 165 stabbings and 10 gunshot wounds.
Mr Griffiths, who earlier this year spoke of his concerns with fellow trama surgeon Duncan Bew at the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “We are very fortunate to work in partnership with the St Giles Trust, which we developed a violence reduction service with. We provide a wrap-around care to these young victims of injury.
“They have tremendous skills in digging into the detail of these young persons and the circumstances of what is driving their injury.
“We found that there are obviously some kids who are gang-involved, involved in the drug trade, but more often than not it’s just young people… who have been caught in difficult situations and they don’t respond well to conflict.
“I think lots of young people are easily swayed. The lack of positive role models, lack of mentorship, lack of support of youth, keys into young people being led down the wrong path.
“I think we have seen a normalisation in attitudes towards violence globally and also a willingness for people in general to take offence at pretty much everything. Things escalates on social media over literally nothing, things that used to be ignored.
“People now, when faced with conflict, react in a much more expressive manner. If people who run countries react in this manner it gives a signal to everybody to be responsive in that manner.
“What we are seeing is people’s attitudes towards violence are changing. Whereas a young boy being stabbed five or six years ago was a horror story, now it’s normal. People expect to hear about people being killed on a daily basis.
“Members of the public who are not involved in gangs or violence let this thing pass without comment.
“You get the society you deserve. If you ignore violence, if you ignore offending as a member of the public, your society will change. We are all responsible for what is happening in our society right now.”
- An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.
- Mr Griffiths first spoke to me in 2013 about the dangers of knife crime and his work to teach teenagers about the dangers of carrying a knife. Click here to read the article.