Gangland stab victims are paying vets and unqualified foreign medics hundreds of pounds to patch up stab wounds so they can avoid the police, HuffPost UK understands.
The revelation comes as government figures released last week showed a 16% increase in knife offences compared to last year, however just a fraction of knife crime victims are admitted to hospital for their wounds.
Sources said many victims shun professional medical treatment because they fear being labelled as an informant, or worry they will be implicated if there is a retaliatory attack.
One gang leader in Wolverhampton said: “Vets are private businesses and so you can come to a financial arrangement with one if he’s willing to help.
“They tend to have the surgical equipment on hand because they tend to carry out more surgery than a GP would.
“I’ve also heard of vets and medic students at university being threatened with violence to stitch someone up.”
The source added: “We use an Eastern European immigrant who isn’t qualified to practice medicine in this country but knows enough to patch someone up. And he’s available at any time of day or night.
“I’ve even paid for basic medical equipment he needs off the internet and I’ll give him about £250 for treating a serious stabbing.”
One Birmingham medic, who asked to remain anonymous, said he charged £300 to stitch up a man who had been stabbed in the leg multiple times.
He said: “I’m a qualified physiotherapist and have good basic knowledge of anatomy, but I’ve never worked in the medical industry full-time.
“A few months back I was called by a friend who asked if I could treat a man who’d been seriously stabbed in the leg.
“They brought him to my house in the early hours and I wiped him down with antiseptics and gave him a sedative before stitching his wounds, which were close to a main artery.”
Former Birmingham gang member Simeon Moore said he knows of victims who have sought medical help from family and friends who are nurses or work in a hospital.
He said: “For a start no-one involved in crime wants to go to hospital when stabbed because you’re inviting police to come ask questions. Even the people dropping you off at the hospital are reluctant to do so in case they get implicated.
“Gang members with stab injuries will seek help from sisters or aunts who may be nurses or even just working at a hospital. I know kids who have approached a hospital cleaner thinking she was a nurse.”
Moore continued: “But the serious criminals will make links with medics through girlfriends and ex-girlfriends who work at hospitals in the city. Some do it by choice while others are threatened into helping.
“Some gangsters I know will just use superglue to close a wound if its not too deep.”
Kirk Dawes, a former police officer who now helps mediate between warring street gangs, said he’d heard a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest vets were being sought out to treat wounds.
Dawes, a Queens Police Medal holder, said: “I’ve heard it many times over recent months that gang members are paying private vets for medical attention.
“But there are a range of ‘street doctors’ options, as we frontline workers call them, for those who don’t want to go to hospital and potentially face questioning from police.
“They range from university medical students to family members and friends who may hold only the basic of medical qualifications.
“It’s a massive risk that both parties are taking and Ive heard of people being worse off after treatment from these street doctors.”
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons said vets were not legally permitted to prescribe medicines for humans, but it did not have specific advice on whether they could treat wounds.