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’Grab bag’ scheme helps young victims of violence

Friday, September 8, 2017

A novel scheme to give health information and advice to young people involved in gangs was inspired by a patient an A&E doctor never got to see.

Dr Gayle Hann, lead for paediatric emergency medicine, told North Middlesex University Hospital's annual general meeting on 7 September, that she devised the ’grab bag’ scheme after a 14-year-old girl came into A&E with bruising and a nosebleed following an assault. She was seen by a nurse who was concerned that she was vulnerable but before she could be seen by a doctor, a major case involving resuscitation arrived. When she was eventually called she had left. During follow-up enquiries, the hospital established she had been reported missing.

“Although it was unavoidable, I felt bad that we hadn’t seen this girl sooner and I wanted to do something to make sure we could quickly reach young people like her,” said Dr Hann.

About 4,000 people aged between 12 and 18 are treated in the hospital’s A&E each year, including children who are cared for by the local authority, children not in education and children in gangs.

Working with Enfield and Haringey councils colleagues, and testing ideas with a focus group of young people, Dr Hann launched the bag scheme to deliver information about local services and to educate young people. It includes leaflets about a range of services, a lip balm with a hidden helpline number for victims of domestic violence and useful contact numbers.

“We staple a feedback form to the bag and I expected the waiting area to be covered in bits of paper but I was wrong. They take the bags away and more than half the users we surveyed said they would recommend them to a friend,” said Dr Hann.

“As the law stands, state schools are obliged to cover sex education from a biological aspect,” said Dr Hann. “But no British schools are required to teach pupils about the social or emotional aspects of sex, or where to go for advice on same sex relationships.”

The meeting, attended by about 150 patients, visitors and staff, was shown a map of the area around the hospital marking the territories of the various gangs in the area and showing which ones were in conflict with each other. There are 225 recognised gangs operating in London.

Dusty Amroliwala OBE, chairman of the trust, and Libby McManus, the chief executive, reviewed the progress the hospital had made over the past year and attributed it to the dedication and constancy of staff. Dr Cathy Cale, medical director, and Deborah Wheeler, director of nursing outlined the ways services had improved and plans to further improve the quality of services.