True cost of alcohol related ambulance call-outs revealed

July 24, 2012, Newcastle University
True cost of alcohol related ambulance call-outs revealed

New research has revealed the true cost of ambulance call-outs to deal with drink fuelled incidents.
The study, by Newcastle University experts, working with the North East Ambulance service (NEAS) and the North East Alcohol Office (BALANCE) looked purely at the cost to the ambulance service and not at the total cost to the NHS. It found that in one year there were an estimated 31,000 emergency calls for drink related incidents in the North East, a total cost of £9m to local ambulance services. That means one in ten of call-outs were alcohol related.

Extrapolated to the entire country, that would be around £150m a year. And this is likely to be an underreporting of the real figure as it only covered incidents where the injured person was clearly drunk.

To get the figures the researchers combined digitally recorded incident logs from the ambulance service between April 2009 and March 2010, with more detailed scrutiny of records.

Eileen Kaner, Professor of public health at Newcastle University and an author of the research, published in the journal, Alcohol and Alcoholism, said: “It is clear that drinking hits us all in the pocket. This study just looked at the cost directly for the Ambulance Service, it didn’t take into account all the other and policing costs of dealing with drunken behaviour. And this is not just a problem among the young, we found a large proportion of these call-outs were for middle aged people.

“Pre-loading is a really big factor these days. People are drinking a lot more at home before they go out and then carrying on once they are in pubs and bars as well.

“There is a very strong link between alcohol price and consumption. Minimum alcohol pricing has to be looked at very seriously. That would at least curb part of the pre-loading element. Many of these call-outs are preventable.”

Richard Ilderton, (pictured) a paramedic with the North East has had years of experience in dealing with drunken people on the weekend shift.

He said: “I have been assaulted, both verbally and physically, as have most of my colleagues. There are problems every weekend.

“It’s not just the callout for the people affected by booze but drunken bystanders can cause big problems as well.

“I had one call out where I had an unconscious woman in the back of the ambulance and a man decided to sit in front of the ambulance on the road and eat his pizza. He refused to move and in the end I had to get the police involved. I was held up for about ten minutes, fortunately the woman was okay but it could have been a lot more serious.

“And the other thing to remember is that on Friday and Saturday night people still have ordinary accidents, we still get called out to the regular incidents. It just puts a massive extra pressure on the service and potentially puts lives at risk.”

Jay Duckett, Clinic Audit Manager at NEAS, said: “Unfortunately, alcohol is a significant factor in a high percentage of the calls we attend – incidents which could often be avoided. People who drink excessively are putting an extra strain on the service.

“Ambulance vehicles and paramedics are our most precious resource, and we need them to be free to attend emergencies where life is in immediate danger. As well as tying up resources, alcohol often results in our crews being either verbally or physically abused. Behaviour which is completely unacceptable.

“We know from the clear-cut cases on our patient record forms that plays a major role in many of the cases we attend. We would urge everyone in the North East to drink in moderation.”

Explore further: Alcoholic liver problems soar among young adults

Related Stories

Alcoholic liver problems soar among young adults

December 5, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The number of hospital admissions for people in their early 30s with alcoholic liver disease has increased by more than 400% in the North East – the national increase stands at 61%.

UK: Minimum alcohol price not set high enough

February 24, 2012
Following Prime Minister David Cameron's vow last week to tackle binge drinking, new research from Newcastle University has highlighted the need for a strong approach to alcohol pricing.

Wide variation in emergency service response to elderly falls patients

March 27, 2012
The ambulance service response to emergency calls for elderly falls patients varies widely across the UK, reveals research published online in Emergency Medicine Journal.

Alcohol abuse could kill around 210,000 people over the next 20 years, academic warns

February 21, 2012
A University of Southampton academic has warned the UK is on the ‘potential tipping point’ in the war against alcohol abuse and says failure to reform alcohol laws will result in 210,000 avoidable alcohol-related ...

Recommended for you

Gaming or gambling? Online transactions blur boundaries

June 28, 2018
In-game purchasing systems, such as 'loot boxes', in popular online games resemble gambling and may pose financial risks for vulnerable players, according to gambling psychology researchers at the University of Adelaide.

Exercise helps treat addiction by altering brain's dopamine system

May 28, 2018
New research by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment—and even prevention strategies—for ...

Warning labels on alcohol containers highly deficient, new research shows

May 21, 2018
Current health warning labels on alcohol beverage containers in New Zealand are highly deficient, new research from the University of Otago, Wellington shows.

Serving smaller alcoholic drinks could reduce the U.K.'s alcohol consumption

May 14, 2018
New research published in Addiction, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, highlights the potential benefits of reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages.

Anti-alcoholism drug shows promise in animal models

May 3, 2018
Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully tested in animals a drug that, they say, may one day help block the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that incessantly coax people with alcoholism to drink. ...

FDA-approved drugs to treat diabetes and obesity may reduce cocaine relapse and help addicted people break the habit

April 28, 2018
Cocaine and other drugs of abuse hijack the natural reward circuits in the brain. In part, that's why it's so hard to quit using these substances. Moreover, relapse rates hover between 40 and 60 percent, similar to rates ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.