Youth violence intervention programme for vulnerable young people attending emergency departments in London: a rapid evaluation

Assessing Redthread's youth violence intervention at University College London.

Journal article

Published: 10/07/2023

This study evaluates a youth violence intervention programme by Redthread in partnership with a NHS trust at University College London Hospital. The objective was to assess implementation and impact through literature review, interviews, and quantitative analyses. Findings show the program's positive perception, especially in paediatric and adolescent services.

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Journal article information



Youth violence intervention programmes involving the embedding of youth workers in NHS emergency departments to help young people (broadly aged between 11 and 24 years) improve the quality of their lives following their attendance at an emergency department as a result of violent assault or associated trauma are increasing across the NHS. This study evaluates one such initiative run by the charity Redthread in partnership with a NHS trust.


To evaluate the implementation and impact of a new youth violence intervention programme at University College London Hospital NHS Trust and delivered by the charity Redthread: (1) literature review of studies of hospital-based violent crime interventions; (2) evaluation of local implementation and of University College London Hospital staff and relevant local stakeholders concerning the intervention and its impact; (3) assessment of the feasibility of using routine secondary care data to evaluate the impact of the Redthread intervention; and (4) cost-effectiveness analysis of the Redthread intervention from the perspective of the NHS.


The evaluation was designed as a mixed-methods multiphased study, including an in-depth process evaluation case study and quantitative and economic analyses. The project was undertaken in different stages over two years, starting with desk-based research and an exploratory phase suitable for remote working while COVID-19 was affecting NHS services. A total of 22 semistructured interviews were conducted with staff at Redthread and University College London Hospital and others (e.g. a senior stakeholder involved in NHS youth violence prevention policy). We analysed Redthread documents, engaged with experts and conducted observations of staff meetings to gather more in-depth insights about the effectiveness of the intervention, the processes of implementation, staff perceptions and cost. We also undertook quantitative analyses to ascertain suitable measures of impact to inform stakeholders and future evaluations.


Redthread's service was viewed as a necessary intervention, which complemented clinical and other statutory services. It was well embedded in the paediatric emergency department and adolescent services but less so in the adult emergency department. The diverse reasons for individual referrals, the various routes by which young people were identified, and the mix of specific support interventions provided, together emphasised the complexity of this intervention, with consequent challenges in implementation and evaluation. Given the relative unit costs of Redthread and University College London Hospital's inpatient services, it is estimated that the service would break even if around one-third of Redthread interventions resulted in at least one avoided emergency inpatient admission. This evaluation was unable to determine a feasible approach to measuring the quantitative impact of Redthread's youth violence intervention programme but has reflected on data describing the service, including costs, and make recommendations to support future evaluation.


The COVID-19 pandemic severely hampered the implementation of the Redthread service and the ability to evaluate it. The strongest options for analysis of effects and costs were not possible due to constraints of the consent process, problems in linking Redthread and University College London Hospital patient data and the relatively small numbers of young people having been engaged for longer-term support over the evaluation period.


 We have been able to contribute to the qualitative evidence on the implementation of the youth violence intervention programme at University College London Hospital, showing, for example, that NHS staff viewed the service as an important and needed intervention. In the light of problems with routine patient data systems and linkages, we have also been able to reflect on data describing the service, including costs, and made recommendations to support future evaluation.

Future work: No future work is planned.

Funding: National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme (RSET: 16/138/17).