‘Drunk tanks’ to ease NHS pressure

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NHS England is making up to £300,000 available over the festive period to fund dozens of “drunk tanks”.

These supervised units are places where revellers who have over-indulged can be checked and allowed to sleep it off.

They should help take the pressure off hospital and 999 services over the busy Christmas and new year period.

Some will open later for “Booze Black Friday”, the last Friday before Christmas, when drink sales usually peak as many office parties are held.

Many will be operational on New Year’s Eve.

The areas that are getting funding for drunk tanks include Soho in central London, Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, Hereford, Norwich, Blackpool and Southampton.

Most of these areas already provide drunk tanks in their city or town centres on Fridays and Saturdays and the funding will enable them to expand their services over the holiday season.

Drunk people who need more urgent medical care will still be taken to hospital when necessary.

‘National Hangover Service’

About one in seven patients who go to an accident and emergency unit is very drunk and caring for them takes staff away from other patients.

This rises to as many as seven in every 10 patients on a Friday or Saturday night.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “NHS does not stand for ‘National Hangover Service’, which is why we want to help other organisations take care of those who just need somewhere safe to get checked over and perhaps sleep it off.”

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A number of cities have already introduced drunk tanks

Bristol launched the UK’s first drunk tank four years ago.

Since then, services have been rolled out to other cities and towns across the UK, including Cardiff and Belfast, but not in Scotland.

NHS England soon could roll out more of them.

A study looking into how effective they are is due to come out in 2019.

‘Reduce demand’

Drunk tanks are often funded by charities and run in partnership with the police, the ambulance service and local hospitals.

The South Central Ambulance Service is again running its SOS Service in Oxford using a dedicated “jumbulance”, or large ambulance.

Last year, the team saw 63 patients. Of these, only 14 required further treatment and/or assessment at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Paramedic and team member Craig Heigold said: “The SOS Project provides a valuable service at a time of peak demand for all local NHS and emergency services in Oxford city centre.

“By doing so, we can reduce the demand on our colleagues at A&E, as well as ensure that more Oxfordshire SCAS staff and vehicles are free to respond to non-alcohol related illnesses and injuries elsewhere in the city and surrounding areas.

“We can also provide a faster and more effective response to patients in the city centre who need us.”

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