Drinking culture is taking an enormous toll on emergency services, report reveals


The "enormous" toll of excessive drinking on Britain's emergency services is laid bare in a new parliamentary report.

Police, ambulance and A&E personnel face a risk of violence and verbal abuse as they attend drink-fuelled incidents, the inquiry found.

It heard evidence of female police officers being subjected to sexual assault - while in one case a consultant told how he was kicked in the face.

alcohol on a supermarket shelf (Rui Vieira/PA)
(Rui Vieira/PA)

The report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm painted a stark picture of the scale of resources devoted to dealing with alcohol misuse.

It called for a number of steps including lowering the drink drive alcohol limit - from 80mg alcohol/100ml blood to 50mg/100ml in England and Wales - and introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol to reduce the affordability of cheap and high-strength alcohol.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, chair of the group, said: "Alcohol-fuelled behaviour resulting in criminality, fires or accidents is adding intolerable - yet often unnecessary - pressure on vital resources, and to the work of our emergency services personnel.

a person drinking a bottle of beer (David Jones/PA)
(David Jones/PA)

MPs and peers took evidence from police officers, fire crew and paramedics. In one area, 86% of police officers surveyed had been assaulted by people who had been drinking.

Evidence submitted also highlighted the issue of sexual assault. One statement said: "I can take my team through a licensed premise, and by the time I take them out the other end, they will have been felt up several times."

paramedic (Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport/PA)
(Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport/PA)

Joanna Simons, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "The costs of alcohol harm to the UK are huge, not only in terms of lives lost but also through the significant impact on society and our emergency services.

"Alcohol costs us all, even when we're not buying alcohol ourselves. What this report highlights is the enormous pressure our emergency service staff face every day."

A Government spokesman said: "Assaulting any member of the emergency services or NHS staff as they go about their work protecting and caring for the public is totally unacceptable - those found guilty can expect to face the full force of the law.

"The Government is working with industry, police, local authorities and other partners to make our streets safer.

"Our Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, published in March, announced new measures to prevent alcohol-related crime by improving local intelligence, establishing effective partnerships and equipping the police and local authorities with the right powers."