Alcohol factor in more than 15,000 ambulance calls

2 April 2018, 08:21

scottish ambulance service

Ambulance crews dealt with more than 15,000 emergencies last year where alcohol was a factor, figures show.

The number is an increase on 2016 stats when there were 14,406 such incidents, but down from a high in 2015 of 23,577 alcohol-related incidents.

A Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives found Glasgow had the highest number of instances in 2017, with a total of 3,783, followed by Edinburgh with 1,674 and North Lanarkshire with 1,279.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) said not all incidents are directly linked to alcohol but where drink has been recorded by crews under "additional factors" in logs.

The Tories said the SAS is struggling to deal with the scale of demand across the country but the Scottish Government said staffing has increased by nearly a quarter since 2006.

The Tories have campaigned for measures such as recovery centres to deal with people who have consumed too much alcohol at weekends and during big events, to take the strain off ambulances and accident and emergency departments.

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: "It's clear people who've consumed too much alcohol are putting an immense and unnecessary strain on the ambulance service.

"No-one will be more annoyed than hardworking paramedics that this particular challenge stands in the way of helping patients who've fallen ill through no fault of their own.

"What's more worrying is the real scale of this will be so much higher, as these are only the incidents when the Scottish Ambulance Service has deemed it necessary to specifically record alcohol as a factor.

"The SNP government needs to ensure ambulance staff are sufficiently resourced to deal with current challenges, and regrettably that includes alcohol.

"We need to start discussing measures that could take the pressure off paramedics when dealing with this, including the possible role of temporary units in towns and cities to deal with those who've consumed too much, meaning they wouldn't need to go to A&E or trouble the ambulance service."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Scottish Ambulance Service staffing has increased by nearly 24% since 2006 - and we have increased the ambulance service budget by 46%, to £237 million, while we are committed to training a further 1,000 paramedics by 2021.

"We recognise the damaging impact misuse can have, not just on individuals but the public services who respond. We have taken a number of actions to tackle alcohol misuse, including pressing ahead with minimum unit pricing and we will be refreshing our alcohol strategy shortly."