Alcohol-related 999 incidents
Alcohol-related incidents make up six per cent of our total workload. In 2013/14 we handled 71,868 emergency incidents because somebody had too much to drink.
Alcohol misuse is a major cause of illness, injury and death. As well as short-term damage, like sprains, cuts and a hangover, alcohol can also cause long-term problems like liver and heart disease and dementia.
In the West End we operate an alternative response vehicle, dubbed the ‘booze bus’, that responds to patients who have had too much to drink.
We are not against people having a good time, but they should be responsible, drink sensibly and enjoy alcohol safely.
How you can have a safe 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% or 4% one is one unit.
- Set a drinks limit: 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 person: nobody should feel as though they should have to drink something if they don’t want to, and real friends should respect each others’ wishes.
- Keep track of what you’ve had: it is hard to say ‘That’s my limit tonight’ if you don’t know how much you’ve had.
- Use more mixers: diluting a drink with another mixer will make it last longer, and lessen the effects.
- Drink smaller drinks: A large glass of wine in most bars is equivalent to a third of a bottle!
- 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. Make arrangements before you start drinking, and make sure you don’t get left to walk home alone.
*Source: Department of Health and Home Office: ‘Know your limits’ campaign
How many alcohol-related calls do we receive?
In 2013/14 our staff dealt with 71,868 patients who’d had too much to drink – that’s six per cent of our total workload. Although during some hours of Friday and Saturday nights more than one in five 999 calls is down to alcohol.
The boroughs with the highest proportion of these calls are Westminster and Camden.
Our figures are based on information given at the time the 999 call is received in our control room, or where alcohol is recorded by our frontline staff as being the main reason for us being needed to treat a patient.
What this means is that the figures don’t take into account other incidents, such as assaults, minor falls and other injuries, that may have happened because someone had been drinking.
How are we dealing with alcohol-related calls?
We have developed a number of initiatives to ease the pressure of alcohol-related calls on our service, particularly at times of high demand in the summer and Christmas and the New Year.
The ‘booze bus’
We use alternative response vehicles, known as ‘booze buses’, to respond to patients in the West End of London.
A ‘booze bus’ can carry more patients than a normal ambulance, meaning that up to five people can be taken to hospital at any one time. This helps to free up frontline ambulances to attend other potentially more life-threatening calls.
Soho alcohol recovery centre
The Service opened the Soho alcohol recovery centre in 2010.The centre provided an alternative to A&E departments for patients who had had too much to drink, helping to free up hospital beds. The vast majority of patients were taken to the facility by the ‘booze buses’.
Up to five staff worked at the centre each night monitoring patients’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels allowing them to sober up before discharging them or contacting their families and friends to collect them. Most patients treated at the centre were also given advice on how to drink responsibly.