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alcohol health alliance uk

Frontline to clean up after the Christmas party’s over

Posted 14/12/10

As the Christmas party season gets into full swing, the region’s emergency services are preparing to deal with Yuletide’s darker side.

Although most people will be heading out to have a good time, in the days leading up to the holidays, police and paramedics are expecting their busiest period of the year as they deal with the problems caused by alcohol misuse.

PC Karl Fairest, of Durham Constabulary, explained: “We get inundated with calls. Everyone finishes work early then hits the pubs. They drink too much. It’s like being a ping-pong ball going from incident to incident.”

Richard Ilderton, paramedic team leader in Newcastle, says the problems caused by alcohol misuse are stretching resources. The North East Ambulance Service say it will be operating at maximum over the period.

He explained: “We have a finite number of ambulances – we serve a population of 2.6 million people across 3,000 square miles. If we’re busy picking up people who haven’t watched how much they’ve been drinking, it has an impact on other emergency calls.”

The frontline is fed up with verbal and physical abuse, over-running shifts, accidents, fights and the massive volumes of calls caused by alcohol misuse over Christmas. Paramedic Ian Lawson who, up until two-years ago, worked in Newcastle city centre said: “People go out with the intention of getting as drunk as possible, especially at Christmas. You do get fed up with it all, it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to get out of Newcastle.”

Instead of over-doing just because it’s Christmas, police and paramedics are urging north easterners to keep an eye on how much they, and friends, are drinking.

Richard Ilderton, paramedic team leader in Newcastle, said: “Some people drink and drink until they can’t walk, then their friends leave them behind and we have to pick up the pieces. Watch out for yourselves and your friends this Christmas, stop them getting into trouble because they drank too much.”

Research carried out by alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware reveals that:

 1 in 7 adults generally drink more than they intend to over Christmas.
 1 in 6 say December is the one month they don’t feel guilty when they drink.
 A third will be attending three or more festive events this month.
 Half say they will drink alcohol at all or nearly all the Christmas parties they go to.
 Half of men and nearly half of all women are expected to drink over the recommended daily guideline during the festive season.

Increased consumption leads to increased problems which are stretching the region’s essential services to the limit:

• 47% of all violent crime is alcohol-related.
• 50% of domestic abuse cases are alcohol related – that’s around 6,500 in the North East last year.
• 2/3 of all young offenders in the North East have an alcohol use disorder.
• Alcohol-related offences committed by women have increased by as much as 1000% over the last five years.

A large contributory factor is that alcohol is 70% more affordable today, in relative terms, than it was in 1980.

Studies show that linking the price of alcohol to its strength and introducing a minimum price of 50p per unit would:

• Reduce drinking amongst young and heavy drinkers without impacting significantly on pub prices.
• Reduce crimes in England by nearly 46,000 a year.
• Reduce hospital admissions in England by almost 100,000 a year.
• Save our country an estimated £1billion every year.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Alcohol misuse is having a devastating effect on many of our communities and families and the lives of professional frontline staff in the North East.

“Alcohol is too available in too many places at too many hours of the day. We need to take measures which ensure alcohol is not treated like any other commodity, like a tin of beans or a loaf of bread. That means restricting when and where it’s available and making sure it can’t be sold at pocket money prices. A minimum price per unit of alcohol would take cheap, strong drinks out of the hands of vulnerable groups like children and harmful drinkers while having a minimum impact on the moderate drinker.

“At the end of the day, we want communities, and Christmases, where alcohol plays a role in bringing people together, not isolating them and creating problems for the frontline staff in our public services.”

Peter Kelly, acting regional director of public health in the north east said: “Every year we see far too many people being admitted to hospital with alcohol related problems and this is a major concern.

“It is important to understand the health risks of excessive alcohol consumption and we are urging people not only to drink responsibly, but to wrap up warm and look after themselves properly whilst out enjoying the festivities.

“Demand for NHS services is traditionally high at this time of year and everyone needs to play their part in helping to reduce the burden on essential emergency services.”