Doctors to tackle violence

Published: 19 November 2008

Medical staff from the University of Glasgow are leading a new initiative aimed at reducing violence on Scotland’s streets.

Medical staff from the University of Glasgow are leading a new initiative aimed at reducing violence on Scotland’s streets.

Medics Against Violence will raise awareness of the short and long term impact of violence-related injuries and prevent young people from becoming victims and future patients.

The initiative, which is being backed by the national Violence Reduction Unit and the World Health Organisation as part of their Violence Prevention Alliance, is funded by £80,000 of government cash.

Dr Christine Goodall, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Oral Surgeon at the University of Glasgow Dental School, said: “Scotland’s Health Service bears a significant burden from violence. Each year, an estimated £517m is spent on dealing with the consequences of violent attacks.

“Healthcare workers see the outcomes of these attacks every day. We see how they can ruin lives, not only of the victims, but of their families and friends. Scars caused by knives and other weapons run much deeper than what we see on the surface – they imprint on every part of a victim’s life, from personal relationships to getting a job, an imprint that will impact on them every single day.”

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Few people know more about the real toll of knife crime than the clinicians who deal with its consequences on the frontline of our NHS. These dedicated men and women already contribute a huge amount to our communities, and to volunteer their own time free of charge shows just how committed they are to preventing future violence.

“This problem has an impact on hospitals across Scotland, and not only in A&E departments. Helping educate our young people about the real cost of violence is an important step towards making us all safer. The dedication of Medics Against Violence sets an example to all of us. I am very grateful to them and admire their commitment enormously.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “There is no doubt that knives and violence scar too many individuals and communities in Scotland. To change this we need to change the culture that makes people look up to the heavy drinking hard man. We need to educate our young people about the dangers of violence and carrying a knife.

“Medics Against Violence is exactly the kind of initiative that can help us to do this. They have direct experience of the horrors that knives can inflict and I’m grateful to all those involved who have agreed to donate their free time to help tackle the problem. I hope Medics Against Violence can reduce the number of young people who carry, use or are injured by a knife or a mindless violent attack, and help make Scotland safer and stronger.”

MAV’s first venture will be an educational programme aimed at 14 year olds. More than 60 medics have so far pledged their free time to take part in delivering the sessions, which will feature a short film focusing on the choices young people have to make in risky situations, with the emphasis being on the long term importance of making the right choices. The film will also feature real life testimonies, including one from Scott Breslin, who is now quadriplegic as a result of a knife attack. The session will be followed by a group discussion.

The programme already has the support of Learning and Teaching Scotland and schools across Glasgow and Inverclyde have been approached to take part.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: “More than anyone, our doctors see the outcomes of violent attacks everyday of their working lives, so they are well placed to speak to others about the impact they can have. Education is a vital part of violence prevention, and MAV has our full support.”

Mark Devlin, Consultant Cleft and Maxillofacial Surgeon, said: “We have already had some very positive feedback about our programme and several schools have already agreed to take part. If we can positively affect the choices that even a few young people make and steer them away from becoming victims or perpetrators of violence then we will consider this initiative a success.

“Violence not only affects the victim but everyone else around them.”

David Koppel, Consultant Craniofacial and Maxillofacial Surgeon, said: “We want to reduce the number of young people we see attending hospitals with serious injuries caused by violence. If they come, then of course we treat them, but we would rather they didn’t get into situations where they need our help in the first place. After all, we can only treat the physical symptoms, not the emotional scars.”

First published: 19 November 2008