Our research, in partnership with the University of Surrey, has mapped incidents of life-threatening penetrating trauma – commonly associated with stabbing or shooting – attended by us over a six-year period to identify violent crime ‘hot spots’ in Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.
With reports of violent and weapon-related crime increasing in rural and semi-rural areas, our research confirms that these incidents are more prevalent along known County Lines, the networks established by city-based drug dealers to supply and sell drugs to users in towns and rural areas.
The study, which is the first by a UK Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) to map incidents involving penetrating trauma, also highlights the vital role we have in helping to improve outcomes for these patients. Every second counts for penetrating trauma patients, and rapidly getting specialist treatment to the scene is crucial. The majority of these patients then require transfer to a Major Trauma Centre (MTC) which, in rural and semi-rural areas, can be over 50 miles away. With time critical, we can halve the time it takes to arrive at a MTC in order for these patients to continue their urgent care.
Commenting, Professor Richard Lyon MBE, our Associate Medical Director and Professor of Pre-Hospital Emergency Care at the University of Surrey, said: “We know that there has been a significant increase in knife crime and penetrating trauma incidents in urban areas over the past decade, and more recently we have seen numbers increasing in rural and semi-rural areas, too.”
“Our study confirms a specific pattern to these incidents mirroring existing County Lines drug trafficking, and the findings will help knife crime prevention strategy and the safeguarding of vulnerable people at risk.”
He continued: “The research also confirms the specific benefits of the HEMS service delivered by our charity, KSS, which takes pre-hospital emergency care to patients so that they can start to receive life-saving treatment as quickly as possible at the scene before being rapidly transferred to hospital.”
“The continuing care of our doctors and paramedics whilst a patient is being transferred is critical as penetrating trauma patients can deteriorate suddenly. Several of the patients in this study required specialist interventions without which they would not have survived.”
The research analysed our data between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2019. During this time, we attended 363 patients who had sustained a penetrating trauma injury to their torso. 88% of these patients were male with an average age of 30 and 62% of these incidents occurred during the night. 78% of patients in the study were transferred to a MTC.
The research has been published by Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine (SJTREM).