On December 18th, a small group of donors, accompanied by the Clerk and Immediate Past Master Diana Berry, visited the Violence Reduction Trauma Unit at the Royal London Hospital and met with lead trauma surgeon Martin Griffiths and members of the St Giles Trust. The purpose of the visit was to hand over a cheque for £65,000 which had exceeded the IPM’s target to fund an additional case worker for the Trust, her choice of charity for her Master’s year of 2018/9.
It was also an opportunity for supporters to meet and speak with Martin Griffiths and better understand the philosophy behind the specialist unit he has set up at the Royal London. The germ of an idea was sewn when he visited a deprived area of Oakland, California and saw a ground-breaking approach to treating young victims of violence who have no place to go in society, and was inspired to learn from and develop something similar back in London for St Bart’s Health. In doing so, he looked at a number of possible charities that he might work with who could offer the kind of longer-term wrap-around care of victims who had survived attacks, saved by his surgical team, often very young, mainly between 11 and 26 (or younger), generally male. For this he chose St Giles Trust, because of their unique model of using caseworkers who have themselves faced the issues, overcome them and are now using their skills and experiences to support others.
Martin offered some surprising statistics – for instance only 5% of attacks were gang-related. It was much more about kids in society with no hope, no trust (in police, authority, school teachers etc.) and little (or no) support at home. They run into trouble, don’t know how to resolve a problem, turn to violence, use an easy weapon, thus catastrophic rise in knife crime.
The surgeon explained the principles behind the approach – which could take weeks, sometimes months. First, let them sleep. Often stunned to be alive still after an attack, they just need sleep, and sometimes do for three days when they realise they are safe, away from risk of attack or reprisals. Then the work of the St Giles case workers begins. This is about being non-judgemental, building up confidence, explaining to victims what they are entitled to (these are people least likely to accept help). Often school exclusions, out of PRU’s, it is about bringing them round to understanding that they can make choices in life, empowering them, and acquiring skills no matter how basic. Yes all the usual triggers are there – poor home life, lack of a father figure, tumbling into drug and gang culture, above all poverty – but the choices are there, Martin maintains, and the success rate is holding up – the policy is working and since St Giles has been involved the unit has seen readmission rates of young victims of violence go from 40% to just 1%. His aim is to create a society that looks after itself.
Meanwhile, Martin’s vision for London is to help and encourage all the main hospitals to follow suit and become hubs for this form of treatment. The Gunmakers’ group was given a special tour of the unit which can receive up to eleven cases at speed from all over the area – and included visiting the helipad equipped with a state-of-the-art helicopter at the ready, the roof of the hospital with a specially constructed zig-zag of ramps to race casualties on stretchers straight to a connecting ‘crash’ lift to the unit in emergencies.
The Immediate Past Master re-iterates her thanks to all members of the Gunmakers Company and friends for their generous support of the chosen charity of her year, local to the London Proof House in the East End.