Drugs, alcohol fuel 21 per cent rise in paramedic call-outs

Ambulance call-outs rose over the festive period. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ambulance call-outs rose over the festive period. Picture: Jane Barlow
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EMERGENCY crews have reported a 21 per cent rise in drug or alcohol-related call-outs across over the festive period.

Paramedics attended 343 incidents across the Capital between December 1 and January 4.

This compares with 282 over the same period in 2014-15.

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The statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, have sparked Tory claims that the SNP government is failing to get to grips with a growing crisis.

The warning comes as new National Records of Scotland data shows the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has risen to its highest level since records began, with 613 recorded in 2014.

There were also 1152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland that year, as well as 35,059 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2014-15.

Scottish Conservative Lothians candidate Miles Briggs said: “These are worrying figures for Edinburgh and show that more needs to be done by the SNP government to address the deeply embedded drink and drugs problem we have in Scotland.

“Although Christmas and New Year is traditionally a time for people to be merry and enjoy themselves, nobody wants to end up in the back of ambulance. The rise in these incidents puts enormous pressure on hard-working ambulance staff and there must be a way of reducing the amount of casualties who end up in A&E because of addictive substances.”

East Lothian saw the number of incidents rise from 31 to 35 over the same period, while the figure fell slightly in Midlothian, from 61 to 55.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Christmas and New Year is always a particularly busy time, but mopping up the mess caused by excessive drinking is something that ambulance crews have to do day in, day out. Encouraging people to drink less is difficult when we are surrounded by cheap alcohol that is constantly promoted as an everyday product.”

However, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said “a number of steps” had been taken to address the problem, including banning irresponsible promotions and increasing access to treatment.

She added: “Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse and as such we remain committed to introducing minimum unit pricing.

“As part of the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget we have also announced an £11.4 million increase in funding next year for the Scottish Ambulance Service which will see around 300 extra paramedics recruited over the next five years.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com