London Ambulance Service sees demand soar at Christmas treatment centre

A Christmas field hospital set up by London Ambulance Service to meet festive demand has seen a 55 per cent increase in patients.

A total of 155 revellers with minor illness or injury were treated in the centre, based at Liverpool Street station, over the course of nine shifts during December, with the final shift on Saturday (20 December). Last year the treatment centre dealt with 100 patients during the same period.

On Friday 19 December – Christmas party night for many people working in central London – the treatment centre saw 25 patients suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, while the Service received 4,559 emergency calls. Between the hours of 8pm and 3am there was a total of 1,731 calls – an increase of almost 10 per cent on the previous three Friday nights.

Duty station officer, Nick Lesslar, said: “By treating 155 patients during December at the field hospital, we’ve saved the same number of ambulance journeys and freed them up to go to people with serious illness or injury.

“It’s worrying that the number of people we have treated at the field hospital has increased since last year. Over the past few weeks we have seen patients who have been too drunk to get home, people who have fallen over and injured themselves, and other who have been in fights or have been assaulted.”

In addition to the treatment centre, an alternative response vehicle – known as the ‘Booze Bus’ – has worked in central London to deal with patients who have enjoyed a little too much Christmas spirit.

This weekend ambulance staff on the ‘Booze Bus’ treated 45 patients for minor illness and injury associated with alcohol.

While ambulance staff efforts at Liverpool Street are now over for another year, the ‘Booze Bus’ will continue to operate through until New Year’s Eve. 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.

Team Leader Brian Hayes said: “We are now busier than ever before and we know that people will continue to be out socialising right through until the New Year.

“We’re not killjoys and we want people to enjoy themselves, but the 999 system should be used for emergencies only. There are always other options, such as NHS Direct, minor injuries units or NHS Walk-In centres or, if necessary, people can make their own way to hospital – going in an ambulance does not mean you will get seen any quicker.”

With alcohol-related 999 calls increasing by 11 per cent since 2006/07 both the treatment centre and the booze bus have been vital in easing demand on the Service at its busiest time of the year. However, there are a number of things that people can do to help themselves:

Eat before drinking to help soak up alcohol
Have at the least the odd soft drink to keep yourself hydrated
Try to keep track of what you’ve had

And very importantly…
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.
Keep an eye on your friends – make sure that no one gets left behind, as these are the people who we can often be called to help.


Notes to editors

  • For further information about this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7921 5113.
  • The treatment centre at Liverpool Street is designed to avoid the disruption caused by the expected increase in 999 calls within the City over the festive period as a result of office Christmas parties and socialising in the evenings. By setting up the centre, around 75 per cent of patients can be treated withuot the need to take them to hospital.
  • The nine shifts of operation were December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 with the centre staffed by London Ambulance Service personnel and St John Ambulance staff.
  • On Friday 19 December the Service received 1,731 emergency calls between 8pm and 3am – an increase of 9.4 per cent on the previous three Friday nights. Between the same hours on Friday 28 November the figure was 1,406 calls, Friday 5 December saw 1,662 calls and Friday 12 December saw 1,680 calls.