Pressures of alcohol on emergency services not just for Christmas

Balance the North East alcohol programme is concerned about the impact of alcohol at this time of year – but also warns alcohol places a huge level of demand on the NHS and emergency crews all year round.

A survey by Balance for Christmas 2022 with North East Ambulance staff found that 9/10 (93%) say dealing with intoxicated patients places avoidable demand on time and resources. And nearly 1 in 3 say half or more of the incidences they dealt with over the Christmas period involved alcohol – perhaps unsurprisingly given the sheer amount of promotion of alcohol at this time of the year.

Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “Alcohol is a toxic product which can harm the body and the brain. And it is also having a toxic and profoundly harmful effect on our emergency services and our NHS – not just at Christmas but all year round.

“Paramedics, police, A&E doctor and nurses are already working flat out with winter pressures and have to deal with the inevitable impact of higher levels of consumption when people might be drinking up to a couple of week’s worth of alcohol in one night, often pre-loading with cheap, shop-bought alcohol.

“While the alcohol industry likes to blame “irresponsible individuals” for drinking too much, people can drink a week’s worth of alcohol for the price of a coffee. Alcohol results in nearly one million hospital admissions every year for conditions like heart disease, cancer and mental and behavioural disorders. The constant pressure to drink, advertising and stockpiling of bottles in supermarkets can make it exceptionally hard to avoid alcohol at this time of the year.

“With alcohol harms at unprecedented levels, we need urgent action to tackle the price, promotion and availability of alcohol, in order to protect our frontline services – including the ambulance service – and reduce the demand on them throughout the year.”