Knife crime reduction programme in Newham Central 1

Posted by: ethan - Posted on:

Crime scene investigation. The weapon, a knife.

Dr Farzana Hussain leads a knife crime reduction programme in Newham PCN, north east London. She explains how it’s working in her community:

Knife crime is a significant challenge affecting our community. At our practice, The Project Surgery in north-east London, which has a list size of 5,000, we have lost three teenagers to knife crime in the past eight years.

While this number may seem small when set against the ONS data, in our context it is more deaths than we’ve seen from childhood cancer, which is a leading cause of child mortality here.

Figures show that since 2011 there have been between 10,000 and 16,000 offences in London per year that involved a knife or sharp instrument, with a peak in April 2019 to March 2020 just as PCNs came into operation in July 2019.

We wanted to undertake a project that was wider than just a health model and help young people aged 11-18 at risk of knife crime who we could proactively support at an early stage.

Our project, Identifying Risk Factors to Reduce Knife Crime in our Young People in Newham, began in March 2021. We used social media (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram) to try to encourage young people in Newham to come forward for help as we know teenagers do not attend GP practices much.

Closeup of cellphone in male hands. Men and woman sitting on parapet outside, texting message, chatting online, using mobile phones. Communication outdoors concept

We employed a specialist young persons’ link worker from West Ham United Foundation, a voluntary sector organisation linked to the football club, who has really connected with our young people and can direct them to various activities tailored to their needs – which include signposting them to tennis lessons or football practice and giving them personal mentors.

Practices and two local secondary schools have been given a simple screening tool, which we devised with the practices, public health and schools to identify potential risks young people. Some common themes are emerging – early mental health issues and relationship-building issues.

Complete Care Communities

The Complete Care Community programme is delivered by Healthworks with NHS Arden & GEM in Warwickshire, with clinical leadership from Professor James Kingsland OBE. It is a national programme that supports PCNs to identify and reduce local health inequalities. The programme encourages local networks to adopt a systematic approach to addressing the wider determinants of health inequalities including using data to inform action.

Muslim children studying in classroom

The PCN ran regular meetings, especially in the initial phase, to co-design the simple screening tool that admin staff could use to help young people who were at risk. GPs also helped individuals using their patient knowledge and hospital letters – such as a young person who attended the emergency department with a hand injury from punching a wall.

The relationships between the two secondary schools, the PCN and public health are really strong as we are all invested in a shared purpose. We also want to engage young people themselves in co-designing the next stage.

We want to link up with the hospital, which has link workers for young people who present with non-fatal stabbings, and we want to link up with the London violence reduction unit.

The national programme will be evaluated by National Institute for Health and Care Research.

African young psychologist talking to teenage boy during therapy session at classroom

The outcomes we are aiming for are:

  • More connection with GP practices so that young people can feel confident to access mental health and sexual health advice as well as physical health advice.
  • More support for young people, to help them stay away from or get out of gangs by giving them a place to go and be a part of a team, in other activities such as sports.
  • A safe space for young people to talk in confidence to a link worker.

We want to embed this project so that it becomes a normal part of practice and use it as a template to look after all age groups with a lens wider than physical health.

We aim to identify themes and learning across all 46 sites in the Complete Care Communities programme, which are all doing different projects to tackle health inequalities.