Paramedics deal with 2000 booze call-outs in 6 months

Scottish Ambulance Service feature with paramedic Charlie Wishart in this rapid response vehicle around Edinburgh. Pictured is Charlie and an ambulance crew treating a drunk student found in Grassmarket.'14 & 15 December 2007.'Picture by JANE BARLOW

Scottish Ambulance Service feature with paramedic Charlie Wishart in this rapid response vehicle around Edinburgh. Pictured is Charlie and an ambulance crew treating a drunk student found in Grassmarket.'14 & 15 December 2007.'Picture by JANE BARLOW

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PARAMEDICS were called out to nearly 2000 booze-fuelled incidents across Lothian in just six months, sparking concerns that “reckless patterns of drinking” are causing a strain on resources.

The drunken dials occurred during the first six months of 2015-16 and people were so intoxicated it was noted on Scottish Ambulance Service systems as an additional factor.

This is a case of personal responsibility and that’s where the real change has to come from”

JACKSON CARLAW

Incidents will rise by almost five per cent since last year if the trend continues, although the numbers have remained relatively stable since 2012.

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “These remarkable statistics show just how deep-rooted and complex a problem alcohol is in Scottish society.

“And not only is it harming those who are over-consuming, but it is diverting scarce resources away from those whose need was not so avoidable.

“Of course the Scottish Government and NHS can always do more to discourage reckless patterns of drinking and provide more help for paramedics who have to repeatedly go into these challenging situations – often several times each shift.

“But ultimately this is a case of personal responsibility and that’s where the real change has to come from.”

The number of drunken 999 calls in Lothian was the highest in Scotland, bar Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which recorded 3849 incidents.

It follows a staff survey last month which revealed Scottish paramedics thought alcohol played a part in around half of weekend call-outs.

The failure to reduce the burden of alcohol-related incidents is a “tragedy” for patients and health workers, according to former GP Dr Jean Turner. Dr Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said: “From a paramedic’s and a clinician’s point of view, you have to treat people, regardless of whether they are intoxicated.

“It is a tragedy that we have not been able to do anything to reduce alcohol consumption as people are doing themselves so much harm.

“People are suffering from more complex conditions and taking all sorts of medications so if you add alcohol into the mix it can become much worse.

“It’s terrible when money is so scarce to put what can be an unnecessary pressure on the service.”

Dealing with drunken patients is frustrating for paramedics who often fear for their own safety, said an ambulance service spokesman.

He said: “Alcohol has a significant impact on ambulance operations, at times taking crews away from those who need them the most. Our teams worked tirelessly to respond to significant increases in demand over the festive period, which was largely driven by alcohol.”