Every preventable call out or visit to hospital due to alcohol slows down our response to another incident such as a stroke or a cardiac arrest.
The NHS across the North East and North Cumbria is encouraging people to enjoy themselves responsibly as bars and pubs reopen on Saturday 4 July for the first time in three months.
As emergency services and hospitals prepare for an expected increase in demand, health bosses today made an urgent appeal to people:
- Continue to follow the rules around social distancing, hand washing and contact beyond family bubbles.
- To keep hospital emergency departments free for those who are in immediate need of emergency treatment or life-saving care.
- Not to abuse emergency 999 ambulance services.
- To use NHS 111 online (www.111.nhs.uk) or call NHS 111 for urgent medical advice.
North East Ambulance Service is starting to see an increase in incidents and demand on 999 in the last week and has raised its operational alert to Level Two (out of four levels) on a framework designed to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response for patients.
This means that while the service continues to operate at near normal levels, action is being taken to ensure its response to potentially life-threatening calls does not deteriorate.
Helen Ray, Chief Executive at North East Ambulance Service, said: “As we move forward to the weekend and the opening of pubs, we are looking forward to people being able to enjoy themselves responsibly.
“But the rules have not changed and it’s important that we continue to fight against this coronavirus. I really hope everyone will behave in a way that does not impact on the emergency services and the NHS by continuing to follow the rules around social distancing and drinking responsibly.
“I can’t help feeling worried about the impact this may have on our services. Every preventable call out or visit to hospital due to alcohol slows down our response time to another incident such as a stroke or a cardiac arrest.”
Extra ambulance crews will be on duty over the weekend and all NHS staff will continue to follow guidance on wearing protective equipment.
Helen added: “Let’s remember that our crews and other NHS staff have already been through a hugely busy and stressful time dealing with the pandemic and you can help us by making sensible decisions about social distancing and the amount of alcohol being drunk.”
The NHS has been on the frontline in tackling the pandemic over the last three months, with some fantastic support from the public. But the concern is that these same key workers will now face having to manage some difficult, alcohol-fuelled situations.
Dr Kate Lambert, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “Accidents happen when people are too drunk to look after themselves; illness from drinking too much and assaults when the victim or the assailant are intoxicated.
“With the upcoming relaxation of the COVID restrictions and the opening of pubs I am concerned that there will be a lot of alcohol related injuries, which can be catastrophic for the people involved. Alcohol related injury risks put extra pressure on hospitals as they try to recover from the challenges of COVID-19. With lots of people out for the first time, it’s going to be hard for people to remember to do all the things they need to do to protect themselves from COVID, including socially distancing and being strict about hand washing.
“For some people it will be their first social event out since losing friends and family to COVID-19 and any celebration may feel difficult. We know that alcohol depresses your mood and worsens your mental health.
“For all those reasons the ED team would like to ask people to remember the Thursday night appreciation of the NHS. Show that appreciation of health workers and the other emergency services once again by looking after each other, drinking and partying sensibly and encouraging others to do the same over the days to come.”
Prof Chris Gray, Senior Clinical Advisor for NHS North Cumbria and North East, said: “We are appealing to people across the region to help our busy NHS teams and really take some personal accountability for how they use services.
“Our NHS provides a fantastic service but we need people to respect it and use it properly. We really want people to stop and think about how they use services so that those in genuine need of an emergency ambulance or life-saving care get the help they need.
“Our amazing NHS staff are under intense pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and are doing a fantastic job caring for seriously ill people, but they need your support more than ever before.”