Times letters: Knife crime and keeping NHS staff

PUBLISHED: 08:30 02 March 2019

Mr Streeting said more need to be done about gangs and knife crime. Photo: PA

Mr Streeting said more need to be done about gangs and knife crime. Photo: PA

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Times’ readers this week.

We must tackle root causes of knife crime

Patrin Kibuuka-Musoke, Harlesden, full address supplied, writes:

Last year was “London’s bloodiest year”, with homicides said to have reached a record number of more than 130 – 57 per cent of those – knife related.

Two months into 2019 and numbers have already hit double figures, showing there is a crisis. Instinctively, I had found myself contemplating the question: “How do we stop knife crime?”

It was the wrong question. The question “how” often advocates the reactionary, with approaches ranging from curfews to stop and search. While many of these could reduce knife crime, there were two main issues with the question I had been asking: The question of “how” and the use of “stop”.

Witnessing knife crime at its peak in over a decade, the gritting truth is that there is never a guarantee of entirely stopping knife crime. But the question we should all be asking is: “Why does knife crime happen and why has it seemed to have become so popular?”

Growing up in Harlesden, North-West London, admittedly, knife crime has never been a foreign concept to me, having witnessed knife handling and its possession. During my 27 years within a knife crime infected domain, there seems to be one common denominator covering all areas of knife crime issues – mental health. The option for anyone to arm themselves with a knife is amongst all of us every day, but isn’t one taken up by everyone. But why?

Government bodies have attempted to introduce regulations such as, curfews, banning songs from online platforms, and even as far as the infamous Form 696 – a risk assessment document which often prohibits artists from performing. But do these interventions reduce knife crime? Or are they just simplistic panaceas bred of incorrect assertion fueling tension between law enforcement and under privileged youth?

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding reintroduction of the Criminal Justice and Public Order act 1994 Section 60: stop and search. Those often targeted felt discriminated against. The sus law often has a stigma attached with the popular belief that it only targets a certain demographic, promoting racial profiling and champions the idea of inculpating, neglecting the issues of knife crime causes.

While I concur initiatives such as the stop and search act can stop a potential knife incident it seems to only tackle one side. It would not stop its cause – the reason someone would pick up a knife is an assemblage of certain root cause/s the person is experiencing; being that destitution, lack of government interest, the over-representation of negativity on black youth in the media etc.

Whilst punishment is salient, the root cause should be considered when trying to reduce knife crime, bringing light to the “why” as opposed to the “how”. Prevention is better than prosecution.

At a time when the NHS is faced with growing staff shortages, senior and highly experienced GPs and hospital doctors in London are cutting back on their work or leaving the profession entirely; partly because of stress and an ever-increasing workload, but also because of damaging tax and pension regulations which severely penalise them for working longer hours.

Pension limits in NHS forcing skilled staff into retirement early with ‘serious’ implications

Dr Jan Wise, chairman, North West London BMA regional consultants committee council, writes:

The current lifetime and annual allowance pension limits are resulting in large and often unexpected financial burdens for the most senior and experienced of doctors and the problems are made worse if they do more hours – to try to reduce waiting lists.

The knock-on effect on patient care in London and the impact of the junior doctors, whom they help train to be our consultants of the future, cannot be underestimated.

Recent BMA research shows shows six out of 10 consultants intend to retire before or at the age of 60, with only 6.5 per cent of consultants expecting to remain working after age 65, citing the pension regulations as a key driver for this decision.

The BMA Consultants Committee has written to both the chancellor and the health minister highlighting the serious implications and calling for the removal of the annual and lifetime allowance cap for public sector workers. We also called for the introduction of a national policy for trusts to begin recycling employer pension contributions to members who have already left the scheme entirely to offset the powerful disincentives that are forcing consultants to reduce and stop work.

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