Data Sharing Dr Adrian Boyle

17:13 Tuesday 12th February 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

NICK FAIRBAIRN: Cambridge has seen nearly a 15% reduction in violent assaults thanks to data sharing. Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s been sharing data with Cambridgeshire Police every month since 2007. Let’s bring in Dr Adrian Boyle, who’s from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and he’s been involved in this scheme. Evening to you Adrian.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: First of all, just tell us how the data’s shared. Is it a case of kind of gleaning info from the patients and passing it on?
DR ADRIAN BOYLE: No. So it’s very simple. When a person comes to the front desk at the Emergency Department the receptionists are instructed to ask them, where the assault happened, when the assault happened, and was a weapon used. It’s only those three items. They don’t ask anything more. And then, each month, we send a spreadsheet to the Police saying we saw this number of assaults at this place, this number at this place, and so on. We make sure that there’s nothing that’s personally identifiable.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Ok. So no issues with patient confidentiality, anything like that. And then clearly it’s getting results, really positive results as well.
DR ADRIAN BOYLE: Yes. We can’t be sure this is actually what’s caused the results. There’s a national decline in the rates of violent crime, but nobody really knows why. There are all sorts of theories going about, ranging from it’s because there’s the economy, maybe because young people are spending more time on Playstations, or even more fancifully if there’s a rise in unleaded petrol then there’s less environmental lead. But nobody really knows why crime is going down, However, what we’ve seen here is that the amount of the decrease we’ve got is way in excess of any national trend.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: We’re talking violent assaults here, aren’t we? In terms of taking into the context of the rest of the country, how does Cambridgeshire fare? Is it a problem that’s been on the rise in recent years? Has alcohol and the availability of alcohol made it worse in recent years do you feel?
DR ADRIAN BOYLE: It’s not just about alcohol. There are lots and lots of factors which drive high assault rates. Cambridge has this reputation of being a very nice middle class leafy suburbs. But we see just under a thousand assault cases a year, so that’s a fairly .. that’s three people a day. So I don’t think we’re immune. Before we started this project we were slap bang in the middle of similar towns in the rates of assaults that we had.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Yes. So difficult to say whether just this is having the positive effect. But certainly it seems common sense doesn’t it, yourselves talking to the police, and giving the police extra tools to work with?
DR ADRIAN BOYLE: Absolutely. We know that 25% of people who turn up at a hospital having been assaulted will report their crime to the police, which means that 75% don’t. So trying to monitor what the police are doing just based on routine crime statistics is almost completely useless.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Ok. Dr Adrian Boyle, many thanks for joining us this evening. That’s Dr Adrian from Addenbrooke’s Hospital