Alcohol-related ambulance calls rise by 11 per cent in London

A video showing the impact of alcohol-related calls on the capital’s ambulance staff has been released on the internet as new figures reveal that the problem is still on the rise.

Emergency calls linked to drinking increased by 11 per cent in just 12 months, while the overall number of incidents rose by only three per cent.

Now, to give a snapshot of the problem in the run up to the Christmas office party season, the London Ambulance Service has made a two-minute film looking at the work of the central London ‘Booze Bus’.

The video, available to view at www.londonambulance.nhs.uk/alcohol, is aimed at partygoers in the hope that it will make them realise the dangers of excessive festive celebrations.

“We want people to have a good time, but not on us,” said Assistant Director of Operations Jason Killens.

“It’s a sad reflection of the situation that we have to run vehicles and other services just to deal with alcohol-related calls, but the fact is that they make it even more difficult to reach people who really need our help.

“We also know that alcohol is a factor in many more of the incidents we are attending, such as assaults and minor falls and injuries.

“It is very frustrating that our staff can be needed to spend so much time responding to calls that are potentially avoidable, as we need to ensure that ambulances are available for people with life-threatening emergencies.

Between April 2007 and March 2008, London’s ambulance staff dealt with 61,624 alcohol-related incidents, compared to 55,734 in the 2006/07 financial year. In the same period, the overall number of incidents attended increased by only three per cent.

As in previous years, the Service will be looking at alternative ways of managing party season demand.

The Booze Bus is operating on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in central London. The vehicle, crewed by three members of staff, can attend people who are drunk and take a group of patients to hospital in one trip, rather than sending multiple ambulances.

Ambulance staff are also based at Liverpool Street station to treat patients with minor illnesses and injuries, with extra staff assigned to deal with alcohol-related emergency calls in the City.

Facts and figures

  • In the three years since the introduction of the new licensing laws in 2005, alcohol-related calls have gone up by 28 per cent, from 48,311 in 2004/05
  • Sunday morning between 1am and 2am is the time of highest demand for alcohol-related incidents and nearly one in five (19 per cent) of all calls during this hour are recorded as being directly alcohol-related
  • Alcohol-related calls now make up more than six per cent of the workload for our crews.

How alcohol-related incidents in London have risen since before and after the introduction of the licensing laws

Year (1 April – 31 March)

Total emergency and urgent incidents

Alcohol-related incidents

Alcohol-related incidents as % of total

2007 – 2008

959,995

61,624

6.4%

2006 – 2007

927,805

55,734

6.0%

2005 – 2006

917,128

51,520

5.6%

2004 – 2005

894,378

48,311

5.4%

Areas with the biggest increase in alcohol-related incidents in the last year

Primary Care Trust area

1 April 2007 – 31 March 2008 no. of alcohol-related incidents

1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007 no. of alcohol-related incidents

% change

Redbridge

1,368

1,125

22%

Croydon

2,205

1,852

19%

Westminster

5,631

4,744

19%

Tower Hamlets

1,974

1,680

18%

Havering

983

841

17%

  • Our figures are based only on information received at the time of the 999 call, or for incidents where staff have then specifically recorded alcohol as being the main reason for being called to attend a patient, meaning that the true numbers are likely to be even higher still.

– Ends –

Notes to editors:

  • For further information about this news release please contact the Communications Department on 020 7921 5113.