A BOURNEMOUTH councillor has called for so-called Drunk Tanks to be introduced in the town to protect over-stretched A&E departments.

Phil Stanley-Watts, a hospital worker who said he sees first-hand the effect of alcohol misuse on the health service, will suggest the move at the next meeting of the council's Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny panel in the new year.

He spoke out after bosses at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital urged people to stay away unless they are undergoing a genuine emergency.

Walk-ins to the department are up by almost a quarter on this time last year.

Drunk tanks - or alcohol recovery centres - provide a safe place for those who have consumed too much alcohol to be checked over and allowed to sleep off its effects.

There are already a number of such units in use in the UK in cities such as Newcastle, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol.

Cllr Stanley-Watts, who represents Boscombe West, said: "As somebody who is one of the support staff in A&E, I have been faced with aggressive people who are drunk.

"The Bournemouth A&E department has to deal with a lot of drunk people who could be checked over in drunk tanks, leaving room for others with genuine medical emergencies.

"I think it should be separate from the hospital and I think we should consider following other parts of the country where they are already being used."

Head of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens, said he will be closely monitoring how a number of mobile units cope on New Year's Eve before deciding whether they should become a regular feature.

He said he will consider asking others to follow suit because around 15 per cent of attendances at A&E are due to alcohol consumption, rising to 70 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights.