Alcohol Issue In More Than Half Of Ambulance Calls

15 December 2015, 12:58

Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all call-outs ambulance staff deal with at weekends, a survey has revealed.

Drink was also involved in 42% of incidents on weekday evenings and one in six during weekdays.

The figures were contained in a Scottish Ambulance Service report looking at the impact of alcohol misuse on frontline staff including crews and emergency call-takers.

A total of 608 staff members responded to the survey, with the majority reporting they have been assaulted when responding to incidents involving alcohol.

Two-thirds said they have been physically assaulted by members of the public who have had too much to drink and three-quarters experienced verbal abuse in these situations.

Almost half of call-outs to assaults were alcohol-related while a quarter of of responses to slips, trips or falls happened when people had been drinking.

Staff who took part in the survey conducted in partnership with Alcohol Focus Scotland identified Christmas as the most challenging time of the year but they also expressed a view alcohol is an all year round problem.

Scottish Ambulance Service chief executive Pauline Howie said: "Alcohol has a significant impact on ambulance operations across all of Scotland.

"It is no longer a weekend phenomenon as crews have to respond to alcohol-related calls every day of the week, taking resources away from those who need us most.

"The survey reveals the burden that alcohol puts on ambulance staff across the country.

"They are highly-trained emergency clinicians and are frustrated that so much of their time is spent dealing with patients who are simply intoxicated.

"On top of that, they have to deal with the violence and aggression that goes so often with alcohol misuse.

"Our frontline staff should not have to fear for their own safety when treating patients, yet alcohol is all too often the key factor in assaults.

"Staff respond to patients in all weathers and situations, and deserve the public's respect for the high-quality care that they provide.''

She also said there was an impact on operations as ambulances are taken off the road to be cleaned and disinfected after intoxicated patients have been sick.

Last year, emergency ambulances responded to almost 750,000 incidents and, on a typical weekend, they had more than 3,600 call-outs.

The survey, carried out last month, revealed 95% of paramedics and call-takers said dealing with people who are under the influence of alcohol makes it difficult to do their job.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "The impact of alcohol on the Scottish Ambulance Service is completely unacceptable and unsustainable.

"Christmas and New Year is a particularly busy time for call-outs but mopping up the mess caused by excessive drinking is something that ambulance crews do day in, day out.

"It is appalling that ambulance staff are regularly subjected to verbal and physical abuse from drunk patients and bystanders.''