Public Health

15.07.19

NHS trusts, councils and police to tackle serious crime under ‘public health duty’

NHS trusts, local authorities and police forces will all be required to work together to tackle serious violence under the new ‘public health duty’.

Unveiled by home secretary Sajid Javid in response to a sharp spike in knife crime, the new legal duty will require bodies to share data, intelligence and knowledge to allow them to target interventions to prevent and stop violence.

The duty will cover the police, NHS trusts and local councils alongside education representatives and youth offending services.

The government said it had been created following an eight-week public consultation, and did not mean public bodies would be burdened with police work, instead designed to build on existing responsibilities and local arrangements.

The duty will hold organisations to account as opposed to individual teachers, nurses or other frontline professionals, and alongside this the government said it will amend the Crime and Disorder Act so that serious crime is a explicit priority.

Sajid Javid stated: “Violent crime is a disease that is plaguing our communities and taking too many young lives.

“It’s crucial that we all work together to understand what causes violent crime in the first place, so we can intervene early and prevent this senseless bloodshed.

“I’m confident that a public health approach and a new legal requirement that make public agencies work together will create real, lasting long-term change.”

Similar public health approaches have been used in Scotland and Wales which bring together every part of the system to support young people and make targeted interventions.

New guidance will also be published to support the legislation, providing examples of different partnership models.

Prime minister Theresa May commented: “We all have a role to play to tackle serious violence and stop the needless loss of young lives. Alongside tough law enforcement we also have to stop children being drawn into crime in the first place.

“Our new legal duty will ensure all agencies work together to share intelligence and identify warning signs, so we can intervene earlier and protect young people.”

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing director for England, welcomed the move to remove the responsibility on individuals, which she said would have placed “too great a burden on nursing staff, who are already struggling with severe workforce shortages”.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, expressed similar concerns. “The inconvenient truth for some is that austerity has taken money out of the public sector, which equates to over £3m, has contributed in getting us into this situation,” he said.

“You can’t legislate yourself out of this, but we do welcome the new ‘legal duty’ for public bodies to share intelligence to tackle serious crime.”

Image credit - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

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