Drunk people should be kept out of A&E because they are a ‘waste of resources’ and scare other patients, say nurses
- Some nurses think drunks should be treated in alcohol recovery centres
- Say they distract staff from ill and injured people and distress patients
- But other nurses say this could put those with underlying injuries at risk
- Others argue alcoholism is an illness and that it should be treated as such
Drunks should be banned from being treated in A&E because becoming intoxicated ‘is no accident’, say senior nurses.
They say those under the influence of alcohol are clogging up casualty departments every day, not just on Friday and Saturdays, diverting from care for the elderly and other seriously ill patients.
Nurses are calling for permanent ‘drunk tanks’ – special units in city centres or hospitals where people can sober up – to be piloted across the country.
Drunk people should be kept out of A&E because they are a waste of resources, nurses say (file picture)
Last year more than a million patients were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related illnesses or injuries, double the number in 2002/3.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said drunk tanks should be trialled in certain areas of the country equipped with scans and highly trained staff to check patients have not suffered life-threatening head injuries.
‘They say there was a time when this was a Friday or Saturday phenomenon but it’s now round-the-week,’ he said.
‘There’s hardly a time when there isn’t someone with an alcohol problem in an A&E department.’
Speaking at the RCN’s annual conference in Liverpool, he added: ‘It’s a contemporary problem, more and more people – not just young people, people of all ages, are drinking too much.
DISTRICT NURSES WILL BE ‘EXTINCT’
District nurses will be ‘extinct’ by 2025, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
NHS figures show that there are now 6,656 district nurses, who care for the elderly at home or administer medicine, compared to 12,620 in 2003.
‘There is no doubt the country has a significant problem.
‘We now have the highest rates of liver disease and alcohol-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and oesophageal problems.
‘People that come in inebriated require a lot of nursing care and that detracts from nurses being able to care for others.
‘People are coming in, perhaps they’ve been in a fight, there’s blood everywhere, they’re careering around, it can make things very difficult.’
The NHS now spends £3.5billion a year treating patients for the effects of alcohol, more than twice as much as in 2001 when it was just £1.47billion.
Nurses also believe drunk people distress genuinely ill and injured patients in A&E departments
Uwem Otong, from the south east Northern Ireland branch of the RCN, said: ‘Alcohol intoxication is not an accident.
‘At a time in which the NHS is facing financial burden, it is important that services are channelled properly.
‘I would suggest a situation in which people who are intoxicated are moved to a different environment to give room to those who are actually having accidents, or those that require emergency care.’
Some nurses think drunk people should be treated in special booze buses or alcohol recovery centres
Some areas have introduced drunk tanks on a temporary basis, including Bristol, where one was set up from a building in the city centre over Christmas and New Year.
But Dr Carter called for other areas to pilot similar projects over longer periods of time.
Anthony McGeown, a member of the union’s Greater Glasgow branch said: ‘Accident and emergency departments up and down the country are caring for more patients than ever before.
‘The drunk tank concept are cells which are used so that those who are intoxicated can sober up without the need for being arrested or for hospital care.
‘Clinically, it is essential that they have the services and training to respond to emergencies as they arise. Alcohol and intoxication can mask potentially life-threatening complications.’
The NHS does not collect figures on those attending A&E because of alcohol, it only records how many are later admitted to wards.
But the charity Alcohol Concern has estimated drunks are responsible for a third of all attendances – rising to 40 per cent at the weekend and 70 per cent in the early hours.