Ambulance staff prepare for party night pressure as cold weather returns

Demand on the London Ambulance Service is expected to soar when festive revellers brave the cold and forecast snow to pack the city’s pubs, bars and clubs for ‘party night’ this evening (17 December).

The equivalent nighAmbulance staff in London deal with their busiest ever night t in 2009 saw the Service take 1,135 emergency calls between 8pm and 3am – a 14 per cent increase on the previous four Friday nights that December. This year the rise in calls is expected to be even greater, with weather forecasters predicting snow across the capital this weekend.

Deputy Director of Operations Jason Killens said: “I’d urge everyone who’s planning to head out to celebrate with friends and family this weekend to wrap up warm, and plan how they’ll be getting home so that they don’t need an ambulance at the end of the night.

“We want people to enjoy themselves but people should do that responsibly. Anyone out drinking should eat first, take on plenty of water and soft drinks during the night and keep an eye on their friends.

“We need to make sure that our staff are free to respond to patients who really need our help. When they’re looking after someone who’s simply drunk it means they’re not available to help someone with a serious or life-threatening injury, the people who really need us.

“Anyone with a more minor illness or injury – or who wakes up on Saturday feeling a little worse for wear – should think about using other healthcare options, such as their local pharmacist or NHS walk-in centre, or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. Or if people need to go to hospital for non-emergency treatment, they should consider making their own way there – going in an ambulance does not mean you will get seen any quicker.”

A range of initiatives are in place to deal with the festive demand, including:

  • Four alternative response vehicles – known as ‘booze buses’ – operating in central London. The vehicles are crewed by three members of staff and can attend people who are drunk and take a group of patients to hospital in one trip, rather than sending multiple ambulances.
  • A team of ambulance staff based at Liverpool Street station working with St John Ambulance volunteers to treat patients with minor illnesses and injuries, with vehicles from both organisations assigned to deal with alcohol-related emergency calls in the City.
  • A dedicated alcohol recovery centre in the West End, where patients who are simply drunk can sober up without having to go to an A&E department.

The booze buses and treatment centres are 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 the odd soft drink to keep hydrated.

Plan your journey home and don’t leave it to chance – think about how you’re going to get home, and who with, before you go out.

Warp up warm to keep the cold at bay.

Keep an eye on your friends and make sure that no one gets left behind, as these are the people who we are often called out to help.

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Notes to editors

  • For more information, please contact the London Ambulance Service communications department on 020 7783 2286.
  • For more information about how we are dealing with alcohol-related calls during the festive season please visit http://www.londonambulance.nhs.uk/christmas