Objectives During April 2004–March 2005, there were 14 810 assault-related attendances at emergency departments across Merseyside. The data available for attendances at adult departments were far more comprehensive than those collected in paediatric departments and so an audit was planned to quantify the extent of the problem, collect more useful data and review the patterns of assault in the paediatric population.
Methods One year (January to December 2006) prospective audit.
Results 616 records were examined. 65% of patients were male with the majority aged over 14 years. 36% of incidents occurred in the street with 20% at school and 10% in public parks. 80% of patients were punched or kicked. There were six knife attacks and six firearm attacks. Before visiting the emergency department, only 42% of patients had reported the incident to the police and 17% explicitly stated they did not intend to report the assault. 10% of patients had been drinking alcohol on the day of the assault, whereas 3% admitted illegal drug use. 148 patients (24%) had a plain radiograph performed. Of those 148, 36 had sustained a fracture. 51% of patients were diagnosed with soft tissue injury. Three sexual assaults were recorded. Only seven patients required admission. 118 (19%) patients were referred for outpatient follow-up.
Conclusions Physical assault in the paediatric population is a growing problem. The level of unreporting to police is worrying. Further work with police and education is needed to highlight this issue.