EMERGENCY service staff at Bournemouth and Poole hospitals say alcohol is a big issue for A&E but a plan to banish drunks could cause more problems than it solves.
It follows calls to set up US-style “sobering stations” where drunks can sleep it off so staff can concentrate on patients who are in genuine need.
But emergency department consultant, Dr Peter Swallow, based at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, said it wasn’t a new idea.
“It has been around for many years and has been piloted in some places around the UK with some success.
“But although potentially there is a lot to gain, there is also a lot to lose.”
But Dr Swallow warned that brain injuries could be missed by untrained staff who assumed that patients were drunk.
“Although it is a good concept these ideas don’t usually get the resources and staffing they require to be done safely.”
Dr Swallow who has worked in the service for around 10 years, agreed that alcohol was a big problem.
“The crisis in emergency care has been a topic of discussion for years and it’s not getting any better.
“Attendances went up by 7.5 per cent last year, but this isn’t a Bournemouth-specific problem, it is a national issue.
“Part of the problem is that ED departments are struggling to recruit. The government has tried various schemes to divert people away from ED but it has not been successful and our attendances have continued to go up.
“There is recognition that at some stage over the next few years something has to change and we need to start by making the service more attractive to junior doctors.”
Alcohol problem is getting worse
Dr Brian Lockey, consultant in emergency medicine at Poole Hospital, agreed that alcohol is a persistent problem for emergency departments and is getting worse due to binge drinking.
“However, the issue has not reached a crisis point for Poole Hospital, except during times such as New Year celebrations. “Prevention is key to improving the situation, including greater education for children about the dangers of binge drinking and being ‘pre-loaded’ and then going out to get drunk.
“We take this issue very seriously here and provide support to patients through our alcohol care and treatment service (ACTS) which provides appropriate treatment and information for any individual experiencing an alcohol problem, and carries out alcohol assessments on any patients over 18 years old where alcohol has contributed to their admission to hospital.