Alcohol-related ambulance calls still on the rise in London

The number of alcohol-related incidents that the London Ambulance Service responds to continues to grow steadily despite the introduction of new licensing laws a year ago.

Between 24 November 2005 (the date the revised laws came into effect) and 31 October 2006, the Service responded to 38,940 alcohol-related incidents, compared to 37,731 over the same period last year—an increase of 3 per cent. Over the same period, the overall number of incidents the Service responded to increased by 2 per cent.

London Ambulance Service Deputy Director of Operations Russell Smith said: “Since the new laws took effect we have not seen the huge rise in alcohol-related incidents that some feared, but there doesn’t appear to have been a move towards the hoped for café culture either.”

“Calls relating to alcohol, whether simply illness from drink or injuries sustained from drunken behaviour or violence, continue to put us under unnecessary pressure and when ambulance crews are attending minor alcohol-related incidents it makes it harder for us to reach those patients who really need our help.”

“We’re not against people having a good time and we’re not saying don’t drink, but people need to take responsibility for how much they are drinking and enjoy alcohol safely.”

One of the aims of the new laws was to eradicate the 11pm to 2am disorder flashpoints experienced on Fridays and Saturdays when revellers leave bars and pubs. However, this is still the busiest period of the evening for the London Ambulance Service in responding to alcohol-related incidents.

Westminster continues to be the busiest area in the capital for alcohol-related call outs with 3,291 incidents since the laws changed. Kingston has seen the biggest increase in alcohol-related incidents, up 24 per cent and Croydon has experienced the biggest reduction in calls, down 8 per cent. The change in Croydon may, in part, be attributed to the London Ambulance Service’s medical treatment centre that was run in the town centre on weekend evenings earlier this year to treat patients with minor alcohol-related injuries or illnesses so that an ambulance was not required.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

Facts and figures

  • From 24 November 2005, the date the new alcohol licensing laws came into effect, until 31 October 2006, the London Ambulance Service responded to 38,940 alcohol-related incidents. This compares to 37,731 over the same period last year, an increase of 3 per cent. Over the same period, the overall number of incidents the Service responded to increased by 2 per cent.
  • One of the aims of the new licensing laws was to eradicate the 11pm to 2am disorder flashpoints. The Service has not seen any significant change to the number of alcohol-related incidents that it receives during this period (see table below). 

Total number of alcohol-related incidents per hour

  Total number of alcohol-related incidents per hour

Friday night/Saturday morning

Total number of alcohol-related incidents per hour

Saturday night/Sunday morning

  Nov 2004–
Oct 2005
Nov 2005–
Oct 2006
Nov 2004–
Oct 2005
Nov 2005–
Oct 2006
21.00 – 22.00 516 555 474 488
22.00 – 23.00 646 657 524 560
23.00 – 00.00 778 789 701 713
00.00 – 01.00 827 819 775 797
01.00 – 02.00 700 743 694 704
02.00 – 03.00 553 497  494 670
03.00 – 04.00 336 380 333 413
  • The total number of alcohol-related incidents that the Service responds to on a Saturday morning between 2am and 3am has reduced by 11 per cent. However, at the same time on a Sunday morning it has increased by 36 per cent. 
  • The busiest hour of the week for alcohol-related incidents is still Saturday morning from midnight to 1am.
  • Monday 4 September to Sunday 10 September 2006, was our busiest week for alcohol-related incidents, with 949 cases reported. 
  • It costs £165 every time an ambulance is called out, which means since the new licensing laws came into effect, it has cost the Service approximately £6.4million to respond to incidents where alcohol was involved.

Impact by area

Busiest areas for alcohol-related incidents

Primary Care Trust area Nov 2004 to Oct 2005
 
no. of alcohol-related incidents
Nov 2005 to Oct 2006

no. of alcohol-related incidents

% change
Westminster 3,270 3,291 1
Camden 2,216 2,158 – 3
Lambeth 1,767 1,808
Ealing 1,636 1,634 0.1
Islington 1,517 1,565 3

Areas with the biggest increase in alcohol-related incidents

Primary Care Trust area Nov 2004 to Oct 2005  

no. of alcohol-related incidents

Nov 2005 to Oct 2006

no. of alcohol-related incidents 

% change
Kingston 663 823 24
Waltham Forest 853 1,031 21
Lewisham 1,106 1,327 20 
Harrow 645 746 16
Barking and Dagenham 593 677 14

Areas with the biggest reduction in alcohol-related incidents

Primary Care Trust area Nov 2004 to Oct 2005
no. of alcohol-related incidents
Nov 2005 to Oct 2006
no. of alcohol-related incidents
% change
Croydon 1,368 1,265  – 8
Enfield 1,070 988 – 8
  
Southwark
1,744 1,628 – 7
Camden 2,216 2,158 – 3
City & Hackney  1,618 1,588 – 2

Top tips*

How should you drink sensibly on a 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 3.5/4% one is one unit.
  • Set a drinks budget: 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 group.
  • Be your own man: nobody should feel as though they should have to drink something if they don’t want to, and real friends should respect each other’s wishes.
  • Use more mixers: diluting a drink with another mixer will make it last longer, and lessen the effects.

*Source: Department of Health ‘Alcohol: know your limits’ campaign

For further information about this news release please contact the London Ambulance Service communications department on 020 7921 5113.