Alcohol-related incidents make
up six per cent of our total workload. In 2011/12
we handled 66,254 emergency incidents because somebody
had too much to drink - that is 181 patients every single
Alcohol misuse is a major cause of illness, injury and death. As
well as short-term damage, like sprains, cuts and a hangover,
alcohol can also cause long-term problems like liver and heart
disease and dementia.
In the West End we have a fleet of
alternative response vehicles, dubbed the 'booze buses',
that respond to patients who have had too much to drink. We also
operate an alcohol recovery centre in Soho which provides an
alternative to busy A&E departments for patients who've had too
much to drink, helping to free up hospital
We are not against people having a good time, but they should be
responsible, drink sensibly and enjoy alcohol safely.
How you can have a safe night out*
- Eat before drinking: food soaks up alcohol,
slowing it down on its way into the bloodstream. It will provide
more energy, and lessen the effects the next day.
- Drink lighter beers: stronger continental
beers are popular, but make for a messy night and a bigger
hangover. The difference between a pint of 5% lager, and a 3.5% or
4% one is one unit.
- Set a drinks limit: plan what to drink in an
evening and stick to it.
- Have a strategic soft drink: this keeps the
body hydrated, and will lessen the effects the next day.
- Avoid drinking in rounds: this can often mean
drinking at a faster pace set by another one of the
- Be your own person: nobody should feel as
though they should have to drink something if they don’t want to,
and real friends should respect each others' wishes.
- Keep track of what you’ve had: it is hard to
say ‘That’s my limit tonight’ if you don’t know how much you’ve
- Use more mixers: diluting a drink with another
mixer will make it last longer, and lessen the effects.
- Drink smaller drinks: A large glass of wine in
most bars is equivalent to a third of a bottle!
- Plan your journey home: Don’t leave it to
chance—think about how you’re going to get home, and who with,
before you go out. Make arrangements before you start drinking, and
make sure you don’t get left to walk home alone.
*Source: Department of Health and Home Office: ‘Know your
How many alcohol-related calls do we receive?
Last year (2011/12) staff dealt with 66,254 patients who’d had
too much to drink - that’s six per cent of our total workload.
Although during some hours of Friday and Saturday nights more than
one in five 999 calls is down to alcohol.
The boroughs with the highest proportion
of these calls are Westminster and Camden.
Our figures are based on information given at
the time the 999 call is received in our control room, or
where alcohol is recorded by our frontline staff as being the main
reason for us being needed to treat a patient.
What this means is that the figures don’t take
into account other incidents, such as assaults, minor falls and
other injuries, that may have happened because someone had been
View the 2011-12 statistics for alcohol-related
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How are we dealing with alcohol-related calls?
We have developed a number of initiatives to
ease the pressure of alcohol-related calls on our service,
particularly at times of high demand in the summer and Christmas
and the New Year.
The ‘booze bus’
We use alternative response vehicles,
known as ‘booze buses’, to respond to patients in the West End of
The brainchild of Paramedic Brian Hayes, a ‘booze bus’ can carry
more patients than a normal ambulance, meaning that up to five
people can be taken to hospital at any one time. This helps to free
up frontline ambulances to attend other potentially more
The ' booze bus' crews can typically help
more than 20 patients during each shift, and currently
operate every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in central
Soho alcohol recovery centre
The Service opened the Soho alcohol recovery centre in 2010, and
we have secured extra funding to keep the facility open throughout
the year on Friday and Saturday nights.
The centre provides an alternative to A&E departments for
patients who have had too much to drink, helping to free up
hospital beds. The vast majority of patients are taken to the
facility by the ‘booze buses’.
Up to five staff will work at the centre each night. They will
monitor patients’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels allowing
them to sober up before discharging them or contacting their
families and friends to collect them. Most patients treated at the
centre will also be given advice on how to drink responsibly.
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