A&E youth workers in Birmingham: A West Midlands first

Birmingham has become the first city in the West Midlands to have youth workers based in A&E departments to help tackle youth violence.  The pioneering Youth Violence Intervention Programme, managed by charity, Redthread, is now underway at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) as part of a three-year pilot.

The programme embeds specialist youth workers - a Team Leader, four Youth Workers and two Programme Coordinators - in the Emergency Departments of Queen Elizabeth and Heartlands Hospitals. The team meet young people aged 11 - 24 who have been the victim of a serious assault including stabbings, gun crime, sexual assault and domestic violence.

The purpose of the programme is to provide young people with the tailored support needed to help them to keep away from involvement in youth violence or exploitation, either as a victim or as a perpetrator.  

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The Youth Violence Intervention Programme started at King's College Hospital 13 years ago and today operates in all four of London's Major Trauma Centres and Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. The Redthread team work alongside the clinical staff and meet the young patients as soon as they can: in the A&E waiting room, on the ward, or even in the resuscitation bay.

This moment of intense crisis, when the young person is nursing a serious injury in the daunting environment of a busy hospital, often alone, can be a catalyst for self-reflection and pursuing positive change - a 'teachable moment'. After leaving the hospital, Redthread mentor and advise the young person and support them to make long-term positive plans.

The Midlands pilot will take place alongside a research project undertaken by the University of Nottingham. A multidisciplinary academic research team will be conducting a Stepped Wedge Design Control Trial which will look to evaluate the impact of the service across the health, social and policing landscape in Nottingham and Birmingham.

To deliver the programme in Birmingham, we have partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and organisations within West Midlands Violence Prevention Alliance, namely the West Midlands Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Redthread has received funding from The Health Foundation, UK Home Office, Barrow Cadbury Trust, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to expand the service to Birmingham.

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The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said: "The work these Youth Workers will be doing in Accident and Emergency units is invaluable to my fight against violent crime.

"We've seen gun and knife crime rise nationally and it is no different here in the West Midlands.

"Intercepting young people whilst they are in A&E and educating them about the dangers of their lifestyle is very important.

"This is just one of the many ways I am tackling the growing problem of violent youth crime."

Jodie Berry, Redthread Team Leader at UHB, said: "It's been a great first week, we are really excited to start working with young people in Birmingham.

"In the last week, myself and the Redthread team have started to meet young victims of serious youth violence and we are looking forward to supporting young people to be healthy, safe and happy going forward."

John Poyton, CEO at Redthread said: "We are delighted to launch the service in Birmingham. We know how important it is to meet young people in the 'teachable moment' to be able to wrap around support and empower them to make positive life changes going forward."

Katie Wright, Emergency Department Consultant, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are really excited to be welcoming new expertise to our Emergency Department teams, helping us to help our children and young adults who are at risk. 

"By working with the Redthread team we hope to provide extra support to break the cycle of violence, reducing violent crime in our communities and preventing further attendances to the Emergency Departments."

The Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, said: "We are delighted to be working with Redthread to bring an extra dimension to the emergency care we provide at the 'front door' of our hospitals.

"Victims of youth violence are at their most vulnerable when they are brought into the Emergency Department: this service will provide another level of support and potentially ensure these young people no longer put themselves in dangerous situations that could result in further serious injury, or worse."  

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins said:

"Redthread provides a critical intervention to both victims and perpetrators, intervening at the 'teachable' moment in a young person's life and providing them with real support and options to exit violence.

"I am pleased that as we deliver our Serious Violence Strategy we continue to support organisations that work to tackle violence and knife crime, including the successful expansion of Redthread to hospitals in Birmingham and Nottingham.

"Our Serious Violence Strategy places a key emphasis on providing early intervention and alternatives for young people, and community engagement is at the heart of our ongoing approach."

The Health Foundation said, "We are very excited to be working with Redthread and six other outstanding project teams who have been selected as part of our Scaling Up Improvement programme.

"We funded this project because of their expertise in scaling complex improvement projects, and their ambition to achieve real impact through improving the quality of care. We hope that the launch of the new service in Birmingham will help the Redthread approach become widely adopted across the UK.