The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the number of presentations of penetrating injuries to a UK major trauma centre

J Public Health (Oxf). 2021 Aug 25;fdab333. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdab333. Online ahead of print.


Background: Knife-related violence is of growing concern in the UK. This study aims to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the frequency of penetrating injuries at a UK major trauma centre.

Methods: This was a retrospective study comparing the number of patients attending the emergency department of King's College Hospital (KCH) with a penetrating injury (gunshot or stab wound) during the 'pandemic year' (1 March 2020-28 February 2021) compared with the equivalent time period in the previous year. Penetrating injuries as a result of self-harm were excluded. The primary outcome was to assess whether there were any changes to the frequency of presentations during three periods of national lockdowns.

Results: Lockdown 1 showed a 48.45% reduction in presentations in the 'pandemic year' compared to the previous year, lockdown 2 showed a 31.25% reduction; however, lockdown 3 showed an 8.89% increase in the number of presentations.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that despite the initial reduction in the number of presentations of penetrating injury during lockdown 1, this returned to normal levels by lockdown 3. Further research is required to understand the effects of government-imposed restrictions on interpersonal violence and identify appropriate methods of outreach prevention during a pandemic.

Keywords: emergency care; public health; violence.