8 victims of assault rushed to city's A&E each day

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THE true scale of violence on Edinburgh's streets can be revealed today by figures which show eight assault victims are rushed to the city's accident and emergency ward every day.

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The number of casualties recorded by hospital staff appears to be around three times higher than the number of attacks reported to police and places a huge strain on NHS Lothian's already busy casualty wards.

Details obtained by the Evening News under freedom of information laws show there have been 13,000 admissions to A&E in the past three years at both the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and St John's Hospital, Livingston, in which the patient reported having been assaulted.

That equates to more than 11 a day across the whole region, while Lothian and Borders Police statistics only show around three serious assaults or muggings every day.

Hospital sources said alcohol played a part in between 50 and 65 per cent of assault cases, with drink being linked in almost all assaults during the weekend.

The source said: "When alcohol has been involved, it is likely to have been a fight which is two-sided, and that is less likely to be reported to police than an out-of-the-blue incident."

There were 9267 victims who reported to the A&E ward in Edinburgh in the past three years, with the number peaking in 2009 and falling slightly last year. The highest proportion of victims appears to be among teenagers, who accounted for 1172 of the attacks listed in a single year.

Police and health chiefs teamed up three years ago to launch a scheme whereby A&E nurses would look more closely for signs of an assault and take details of the incident.

Those figures are passed to police, though not the identity of the victim, who compare these with assault reports from that time.

City councillor and Labour's city health spokeswoman, Lesley Hinds, said: "It's the culture we have to change of not reporting these incidents to police, possibly because people are too scared of what will happen.

"If people are not charged and the police don't know about it, they are free to do it again. It also places a huge strain on the NHS and can be upsetting for other people in the A&E ward to see people who have been beaten up." A police spokesman said: "We would encourage any victim of crime to report it."

NHS Lothian was unable to comment.