Specialist youth workers are to be embedded into hospital A&Es across Bedfordshire to offer support to patients involved in or at risk of violence and exploitation.
The Bedfordshire A&E navigators programme will work with young people aged 12 to 25 who are primarily patients at both the Bedford and Luton & Dunstable hospitals.
The service will be focused on patients who come into A&E with injuries linked to violence and exploitation, including self harm and assault injuries.
They will be offered specialist support to move away from criminal exploitation, gangs and county lines related activity and to positively engage with other local services.
Some 1,800 young people aged 10 to 24 came to A&Es in Bedfordshire between April 2016 and March 2021 with assault related injuries.
Charity St Giles Trust, which runs similar schemes across the country, has been commissioned to run a pilot service which is due to launch next year.
It is being funded by the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) as well as the serious violence duty, a landmark new national programme which encourages different agencies to work together to tackle things like knife crime and county lines.
The project is being coordinated by the Office of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
David Kirby, a consultant in emergency medicine at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have been incredibly supportive of this programme for some time now, so am pleased that we will now have crisis workers embedded in the hospital to help these injured young people find a different path in life”.
PCC Festus Akinbusoye added: “Experts who work with young people will often talk about teachable moments, key points in a young person’s life where they can make important decisions about their future.
“Attendance at hospital is one of those moments. Experts from St Giles Trust will use their considerable experience and expertise to offer support and advice at a crucial moment which could help turn someone’s life around.
“I am pleased that we have been able to bring this service to Bedfordshire, alongside a whole host of other prevention and early intervention programmes we are supporting to tackle things like knife crime in our county.”
Felicity Cox, chief executive officer of Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, said: “I welcome this initiative which will work with young people who have been subjected to violence, to support them in accessing mental health services, coaching and mentoring to help them move on from their experiences.
“I will follow this project with great interest and look forward to a brighter future for our young people in Bedfordshire.”
Carly Mason, regional development manager for St Giles Trust East of England, said: “Since 2015, St Giles Trust has been working directly in hospitals to provide support and advocacy for young people admitted because of serious violence.
“This work, using trained caseworkers with first-hand experience of the issues being experienced by the young people they help, has been shown to have an impact in reducing re-admissions.
“We are delighted to be working with the Bedfordshire OPCC and the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, comprised of Luton and Dunstable Hospital and Bedford Hospital, to bring this work to local communities and work in partnership to help reduce youth violence and child criminal exploitation.”
It comes in the same week Dr Kirby and other local clinicians spoke out about the impact treating victims of stab wounds has on medical staff, in an article for the BBC.
It came in support of the Just Drop It knife crime campaign, led by the VERU and supported by dozens of other organisations across the county.
Dr Kirby and the PCC were among a panel of guests at an exclusive screening at Youthscape in Luton last night (Wednesday) of the main film supporting the campaign.