MDX Minds

Violence intervention through hospital A&E

Yael Ilan-Clarke is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) based at Middlesex University, which has been working with A&E patients to reduce cycles of violence.

An innovative approach to tackling interpersonal violence in the UK has been the move towards using hospital accident & emergency (A&E) departments as the setting for intervention efforts. Recently there has been such support for this approach that in 2015 over £600,000 has been invested in placing specialist youth work services in all the Major Trauma Centres (MTC) in Central London boroughs.

The first two such projects in the UK have been longstanding in the capital and have demonstrated sufficient effectiveness to encourage further investment in the same vein. The first was set up in King’s College Hospital in 2006 (one of the London MTCs) with the voluntary agency Red Thread pioneering the service. The second one launched in 2010 in St Thomas’ Hospital, delivered by the Oasis UK charity.

Both projects serve two inner-city London boroughs characterised by diversity and high levels of deprivation. Multidisciplinary teams form the backbone of the projects, whereby a youth-work service is embedded into the referral pathways of the hospital following clinical assessment/treatment at an A&E (or in the case of King’s, also later on the wards). Professionals from a range of services act as advisors to the projects’ steering, with specific contributions from paediatric clinical teams, public health, police and youth offending. The CATS research group became involved as evaluators of the intervention at St Thomas’ when it was launched as a pilot, and continues to assess its effectiveness and progress to this date.

Reducing risk

Photo by Phalinn Ool (Creative Commons 2.0)

It is the nature of these interventions and their location which represents the unique vantage point for  violence reduction. Most important is the move towards support and care, and away from judgement and punishment. Rather than just patching up the wounds and sending young people back to the streets to face the same threats, the projects aim to identify those at risk and work with them to reduce the level of risk in their personal, social and emotional lives. Such projects facilitate access to a population which too often slips through the net in terms of help-seeking behaviour. The population are typically young people with multiple risk factors who are on a continuum of risk on the brink of, or already embroiled in, a cycle of violence.

So what can such projects contribute to violence reduction efforts?

These are just a few of the unique facets that hospital-based violence interventions for young people are able to contribute to the reduction in interpersonal injury. The CATS team will be holding a one day seminar in the summer for existing and emerging A&E-based violence interventions in the UK, with a view to forming a national network to facilitate sharing best practice between these innovative projects. It is hoped that by working with a shared agenda, more can be done to change the lives of individuals and communities in the effort to heal the wounds of violence.