Rural hospitals need more support to deal with the growing number of young people arriving at major trauma units and A&Es owing to violence linked to the drug trade, charities and doctors have said.
County lines drug dealing involves urban gangs moving drugs and cash between city hubs and provincial areas.
Young people are groomed and offered money to sell drugs in out-of-town locations.
It has been linked to an increase in violence, with a rise in knife crime across the country.
We are dealing with it more and more and it’s so sad and such a waste.
The whole culture is needless and a waste of young lives,” said David Kirby, a consultant in emergency medicine at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital.
In Bedfordshire, where Luton is situated, a Home Office report found that knife crime has risen 86% since 2014. “We have seen increase in woundings of all methods – so beatings, stabbings and [the use of] firearms,” said Kirby.
He said it was hard to know what the story behind each case but that the hospital was working with the youth charity called Redthread,
Violence is always best tackled by prevention rather than cure and targeted input into these areas and working with youths and criminals to get out of it always going to be better option,” he said.
John Poyton, the chief executive of Redthread, said a growing number of hospitals were asking for help and that these were increasingly ones in less urban areas.
“What is really important is getting the rest of the country, not just urban centres, to recognise there are issues around violence and vulnerability for local young people,” he said.