More cities may get 'drunk tanks' to relieve A&E

Leslie Hanson
December 29, 2017

In the United Kingdom, so-called drunk tanks are being considered to ease the strain on emergency rooms and ambulance services caused by heavy drinkers.

A number of cities have already introduced the units - also known as booze buses - all-year-round, including Newcastle, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol.

"The NHS doesn't stand for the National Hangover Service" - so said the head of NHS England Simon Stevens today as he warned that "drunk tanks" might be needed to relieve pressure on A&E.

He says it is wrong for health workers to devote precious time to people who "just need somewhere to safely sleep it off". The Scottish Government said it was not aware of any operating north of the border.

The NHS estimates 12 to 15 per cent of visits to its emergency departments are a result of alcohol consumption.

Health service employees say there is a need for more education about the consequences of binge drinking, as well as on how to address the problem without calling on emergency services.

The NHS is considering introducing a national network of city centre "drunk tanks" to allow revellers to sleep it off without clogging up hospitals.

Researchers at Cardiff University, who are studying the effectiveness of the units in managing intoxicated patients, have found evidence that they had helped cut the number of assaults on health-service employees by 40 percent. But this jumps to 70 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights, and over holiday periods such as Christmas and the New Year, according to NHS England.

Cardiff's Alcohol Treatment Centre (ATC), which was launched in 2012, provides a safe environment in which intoxicated people can be assessed, treated and monitored.

In December 2015 alone nearly 150 people were treated at the centre, which is also manned by a paramedic and a police officer.

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