How NHS data is driving effective prevention of violence

Routinely collected A&E data is transforming the effectiveness of policing and violence prevention, a leading oral and maxillofacial surgeon has told the RCGP annual conference.

Speaking on Friday at the college's annual conference in Harrogate, Professor Jonathan Shepherd told delegates how a low-cost scheme to map violence hotspots around Cardiff had helped cut violent crime, keeping people out of hospital and out of prison.

Maps of A&E data from Cardiff, Brisbane in Australia and Milwaukee in the US showed an often far more detailed picture than data on violent incidents collected by the police, he said.

The hospital data maps identified hotspots that in some cases were absent from maps based on police information, the professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and director of Cardiff University's violence research group said.

Collection of data in A&E on the location of violent incidents, times and types of weapon used - data collection that has now been written into the standard NHS contract in England - had helped police target resources far more effectively, he said.

Prevention of violence

He said police had been able to redeploy officers from rural areas to particular city locations at times when violence was shown to be likely, and to put into effect methods such as the adoption of plastic glassware in violence hotspots, or CCTV.

'Use of this information facilitates earlier and more frequent police intervention in fights and altercations and keeps people out of hospital and ultimately prison,' Professor Shepherd said.

'Collection of these data and asking patients if they are injured in their own home or someone else's helps identify domestic violence.' He added that data on weapon use can help identify weapon trends – such as a spate of CS gas use - that police can then intervene to stop.

In Milwaukee, data from a children's hospital emergency department had identified a school that was a violence hotspot. The school simply 'did not show up in police data', he told the conference.

'Police didn’t know about it, councils didn't know about it. Perhaps this could help prevent a future violent incident.'

Professor Shepherd told the conference that in Cardiff anti-violence work based around the hospital data had helped reduce crime. He revealed that an academic had also sent him data suggesting that interventions put in place in the city may have led to a reduction in homicides.

Full coverage of RCGP annual conference

Photo: Pete Hill

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