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Hospital sees average of three bully victims a week

Frontline staff at a busy hospital accident and emergency unit dealt with almost three dozen children injured by playground bullies in a single term, it emerged this week.

Most of the victims were bullied at school, with some children being forced to take drugs or drug overdoses and others suffering broken bones, bruises or cuts.

Research into the physical consequences of bullying abuse was carried out by consultants at Morriston Hospital, in Swansea, south Wales. They warned that the snapshot offered by the findings gives an accurate glimpse of the bullying problem across the UK. Wales held its annual anti-bullying week last month.

The research itself was carried out over one summer school term in 1999, but the results were only made public at a conference this year.

It reveals that Morriston's AE unit saw 34 children with injuries as a direct result of bullying - an average of three a week.

Now the same team is preparing to carry out a comparative study in an effort to gauge whether the shocking bullying problem has improved.

Consultant community paediatrician Alison Maddocks, who led the research, said: "I cannot say that these results would be unique to the Swansea area.

"We decided to do the research because there was a feeling that some of the children seen at the AE unit had injuries that might result from bullying.

"One of the facts that emerged is that injuries from bullying are not the result of accidents, they are done on purpose."

The research focused on the greater Swansea area, with an estimated population of 66,000 children aged between four and 18 who could have potentially used the AE unit over the period.

It shows that more than 60 per cent of attacks took place in school while 15 per cent of injuries were so bad they involved a bone fracture. Close to a quarter of all injuries were cuts and abrasions, while a fifth of victims had bruising. Three-fifths of the patients were boys.

The youngest child victim was just four years old while the oldest was 15.

Hitting and punching were the most common methods of attack. In three cases children were jumped or stamped on, two were thrown and two were butted.

There were two overdoses and one case of drug abuse.

Dr Maddocks said children who were frequently bullied at school were more likely to wet their beds. They could also have difficulty sleeping and suffer headaches, as well as psychological problems including anxiety and depression.

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