Up to ￡300,000 will be made available to fund dozens of ‘drunk tanks’ over the festive period to ensure revellers who have overindulged can get checked over and even sleep it off.
The supervised areas will help take the pressure off hospitals and 999 services over Christmas and New Year.
Although a study into the benefits of NHS-operated ‘Alcohol Intoxication Management Services’ will not report until 2019, they are already used in some areas such as Exeter, Hereford, Norwich, and Blackpool and help ease pressure on paramedics, nurses, and doctors during times of high demand.
Five ambulance trusts in the north east, East Midlands, south central, West Midlands and the north west have applied for a share of the new funding, as well as an existing SoHo scheme in London. They are all proposing the use of extra cash to cover various additional locations and enhanced hours within their regions.
It was first announced in January this year that the NHS would be opening more ‘drunk tanks’ in 2018, with the experience of running these services throughout the year helping inform their use during this Christmas.
Announcing the scaling-up of the programme today, CEO Simon Stevens said: “I have seen first-hand while out with ambulance crews in the run-up to last Christmas the problems that drunk and often aggressive people cause paramedics and A&E staff who just want to help those who need it most.
“NHS does not stand for ‘National Hangover Service’ which is why we want to help other organisations take care of those who just need somewhere safe to get checked over and perhaps sleep it off.”
He also urged councils to take advantage of the ‘late night levy’ which they are able to impose on bars and clubs in order to invest more money in safe spaces for party-goers.
The impact of alcohol-related issues on the health service, especially during the holiday season, is considerable, with intoxication behind as much as 15% of attendances at emergency departments – with this figure rising to a staggering 70% during Friday and Saturday evenings.