The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) have released a new report highlighting the impact of alcohol on emergency services in England.
The report is based on an extensive survey of nearly 5,000 police officers, ambulance and paramedic staff, accident & emergency department consultants and fire officers, demonstrating both the financial burden on the emergency services and the human cost to frontline staff.
Key findings include:
- Violence against emergency services is ubiquitous, with 76% of police, and 50% of ambulance staff having been injured on the job as a result of drunken violence
- Between a third and a half of emergency service staff have suffered sexual harassment or assault in the line of duty
- Alcohol takes up as much as half of emergency service time
- Emergency services are increasingly stretched, with over 90% of police and ambulance staff reporting they have performed the role of another blue light service in dealing with alcohol-related incidents
- Over half of emergency service staff feel inadequately trained to deal with alcohol-related incidents
Institute of Alcohol Studies Director Katherine Brown said:
Our report shows how alcohol takes up a disproportionate share of emergency service time, costing taxpayers billions of pounds each year. Many of these incidents are preventable, and alcohol therefore creates unnecessary problems for front line staff, increasing their workload and preventing them from dealing with other important issues. Police officers we spoke to would far rather be dealing with burglaries than Friday night drunks.
The report recommends the following policies to address this issue:
- Further trialling of Alcohol Treatment Centres (special facilities desi gned to help people who are highly intoxicated by providing a safe place to sober up, whilst offering supervision and elements of clinical care)
- Delivering Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) at ‘teachable moments’
- A lower drink drive limit (50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood)
- Better information sharing between police and emergency departments
- More assertive use of licensing powers by local authorities
- Reducing the affordability of alcohol, for example through a minimum unit price
Earlier this year Balance North East also called for further action following a survey showing almost half of North East paramedics have been subjected to alcohol-fuelled physical assaults whilst on duty.
Brigid Simmonds of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said they would be "studying" the report, but dismissed the "myth" of 24 hour drinking and said local authorities had plenty of powers to restrict licensing hours and close problem premises.
Whilst some health bodies might question the strength of licensing legislation - particularly given the failure of measures such as Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROs) - others might draw focus back to cheap off-sales and minimum pricing as central to alcohol policy debates.