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New Year’s Eve set to be busiest night for ambulance staff

Ambulance staff working on New Year's Eve

With New Year’s Eve just hours away, ambulance staff are preparing for one of their busiest nights of the year.

Hundreds of thousands of revellers are expected in the capital to welcome 2011 and that means a huge surge in 999 calls for the London Ambulance Service.

Deputy Director of Operations Jason Killens said: “Our staff in the control room and those on ambulances always work hard to look after Londoners. On New Year’s Eve we always see a big increase in 999 calls and as ever we are well-prepared.

“However, I’d urge people to wrap up warm and plan their journey home in advance if they’re out celebrating the New Year and drinking in and around central London. And people should try to drink responsibly and pace themselves – we want people to have a good time, but over doing it can damage your health and lead to other associated injuries.

“Alcohol-related calls put extra pressure on the Service and every minute that we spend looking after somebody who is simply drunk, is a minute that could have been spent helping a patient who is seriously ill or injured. Please enjoy yourself but do it sensibly – a night out shouldn’t end up in the back of an ambulance or in an A&E department.”

To help deal with the increase in demand on New Year’s Eve, the Service is running a number of initiatives, particularly in relation to alcohol-related calls:

  • Treatment centres – staff will be at 13 treatment centres across the capital to look after people who’ve had too much to drink, or who have minor illnesses or injuries. The idea is to treat patients at these dedicated field hospitals rather than taking them to busy A&E departments. The Service will be running the centres in conjunction with staff from St John Ambulance at sites including Waterloo and Charing Cross train stations and Trafalgar Square.
  • Medical response teams – working in teams of three, up to 90 staff will be on foot in the busy celebration hotspots around Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, the West End and the banks of the Thames. Assisted by staff from St John Ambulance, these teams will be sent to calls by a dedicated control room.
  • ‘Booze buses’ – four alternative response vehicles or ‘booze buses’ will also be on patrol in the capital to look after patients who are drunk, or who are suffering from alcohol-related illnesses or injuries. They will help to free up frontline ambulances for patients in a serious or life-threatening condition.

Jason added: “We are doing all that we can to ensure our normal level of service is maintained throughout New Year’s Eve but we would ask the public to help us by using their ambulance service wisely.

“Dialling 999 just because you or a friend is drunk is not appropriate. Our priority is to attend patients with life-threatening or serious illnesses or injuries, the elderly and patients with chronic conditions. People with minor illnesses or injuries should think about using other healthcare options like NHS Direct on 0845 46 47, or their local pharmacist or walk-in centre.

“If people need to go to hospital for non-emergency treatment, they should make their own way there. Arriving by ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker.”

There are also 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 yourself hydrated.
  • Try to keep track of what you’ve had.

And very importantly:

  • Wrap up warm.
  • 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 to make sure that no one gets left behind.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

  • The Service’s emergency operations centre takes an average of 150 calls an hour. Last year the Service took a total of 2,015 emergency calls between midnight and 4am on New Year’s Day, at a rate of 503 per hour.
  • New Year’s Eve 2009/10 was the second busiest night for the London Ambulance Service after New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 (2,233 calls between midnight and 4am).
  • For further information about this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7783 2286.
  • Find out how we’re dealing with alcohol-related calls at
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