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Hospitals could help fight crime

18th July 2008

A crime expert says hospitals could take more steps help the police to tackle crime.

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Professor Jonathan Shepherd from Cardiff University believes that if hospitals share data with police it could help identify hotspots of crime.

He also suggests that doctors could alert the police about people who are violent.
Current guidelines mean doctors only have to inform the police about patients treated for gunshot wounds but not other injuries, though that protocol is under review.

However, medical professionals remain concerned about having to automatically alert the authorities as they fear it could deer people from seeking treatment.

Professor Shepherd said that if data was compiled anonymously, it could still provide police and councils invaluable information to fight crime.

He said: “It is not safe to assume that the most serious violence, including knife and gun violence, will have been reported.”

Professor Shepherd said he also felt doctors should consider alerting police immediately if they believed an attacker was on the loose even if that leads to identification of a patient.

The British Medical Association said sharing anonymous data would be a positive step but doctors did not want to be “compelled” to identify patients by reporting all knife wounds.

“There has to be an element of flexibility which would allow doctors to act in their patient's best interests while protecting the public at large,” said a spokesman.

The Department of Health said regional health bosses had been asked to look at what role the NHS has to play in helping police tackle violence.

 

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