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‘Drunk tanks’ for Christmas

NHS England helped fund so-called ‘drunk tanks’ over Christmas and New Year. They’re supervised areas run by ambulance trusts where people can be checked over and even sleep it off, rather than being taken to casualty or monitored by the police. Such facilities are already used in Exeter, Hereford, Norwich and Blackpool.

A study into the benefits of NHS-operated “Alcohol Intoxication Management Services” (AIMS) is due to report in 2019. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS made up to £300,000 available over the festive period to fund dozens of services including one in London’s Soho for it to open for additional days.

Simon Stevens said: “I have seen first-hand while out with ambulance crews in the run-up to last Christmas the problems that drunk and often aggressive people cause paramedics and A&E staff who just want to help those who need it most. NHS does not stand for ‘National Hangover Service’ which is why we want to help other organisations take care of those who just need somewhere safe to get checked over and perhaps sleep it off.”

The chief urged local government to make more use of the ‘late night levy’ which they can impose on bars and clubs. An estimated 12pc to 15pc of attendances at emergency departments in the UK are due to acute alcohol intoxication. This peaks on Friday and Saturday evenings when a majority of attendances can be alcohol related.

The NHS England initiative comes as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) prepare to publish their findings into Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (AIMS). The results will help decide whether these services are supported on a more routine basis.

In Bristol a Mobile Treatment Centre, or MTC, was again run by the South Western Ambulance Service, on the Friday and Saturday nights in the run up to Christmas – including so-called ‘Black Friday’ or the last Friday before Christmas – when many of the office parties are in full swing.

At the Soho Angels scheme in London, Westminster City Council and the LGBT Foundation were partnering with St John Ambulance, Drinkaware, Metropolitan Police, London Ambulance Service and Safer West End.

In Exeter, a scheme involving Exeter Community Safety Partnership saw local health and council services team up with Street Pastors and the St John Ambulance.

The South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) again ran its SOS Service in Oxford using a dedicated jumbulance, or large ambulance. The service, which has been running since 2014, provides extra medical provision in the city centre on Fridays and Saturdays.


Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils want everyone to stay safe and enjoy the festive period but realise there will always be a temptation for people to drink too much at this time of year. This is why many councils fund ‘safe spaces’, which help take pressure off NHS and police services during the party season, while safeguarding people who have overindulged.

“The Late Night Levy is another useful tool which can be used by councils to provide targeted funding to support innovative ideas for keeping the night-time economy safe.

“However, the requirement to apply the levy to late night businesses across the whole of a local authority area, rather than just a specific part of the area, has limited its use among councils. We are urging government to enact legislation as soon as possible which enables councils to define specific parts of their areas that the levy should apply to, which stands to increase its use.”


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