‘Double drunk fines to £180 and hit those who repeatedly abuse our NHS’

Binge drinkers are costing emergency response services over £60m every year.

New FOI figures reveal London’s Ambulance Service is spending £16m a year on responding to and treating drunks.

In addition, the Capital is spending at least £45m on binge drinkers needing emergency hospital admissions².

Admissions relating to alcohol in London’s hospitals have tripled in the last decade – from 56k in 2002 to 156k in 2011³ – burdening the Capital’s doctors and nurses.

A new report, On The Wagon is calling for Parliament to double drunk fines to £180 and target those who repeatedly abuse our public services.

GLA Conservative London Assembly Member, and author of the report, Tony Arbour said:

Tony-opinion“Many people like a tipple but our public services should not be catering for bingers who can’t handle their drink. Our ambulances, prison cells and A&Es are designed for medical emergencies or dangerous criminals, yet we are seeing London’s drunks hogging these services, costing the Capital millions of pounds. We need to deter this behaviour by doubling fines for drunkenness to £180 and hitting those who repeatedly abuse our health services, many of whom are currently getting off scot-free. The cash raised could fund targeted support and guidance for repeat offenders. The Mayor of London needs to lobby Parliament to make this happen and I’ll be urging him to do so. ”

The report also calls for Sobering Centres* and Booze Buses**, manned by nurses, to operate on troubled high streets, across London, all year round.

Tony Arbour said:

“As well as deterring this behaviour, we need to deal with drunks in a more appropriate way. Purpose-built Sobering Centres and Booze Buses, manned by nurses, can provide low level treatment such as blood pressure and blood sugar checks as well as a bed for the night. This will deliver significant savings by freeing up prison cells and emergency rooms for London’s real problems.”

Currently, London has recently closed its only sobering centre (which was located in Westminster) and has just one remaining Booze Bus – operating on a seasonal basis.

This report recommends targeting the Capital’s trouble high streets with a total of three Sobering Centres and 10 Booze Buses – operating all year round across London.

The full report ‘On The Wagon: Reducing the cost of binge drinking by expanding sobering services’ can be accessed at www.glaconservatives.co.uk/ow


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Sobering services (Sobering Centres and Booze Buses) are neither for people with alcohol poisoning nor those with chronic alcoholism. These people should use current NHS facilities, and those found in sobering services with these conditions will be transferred to A&E departments.
*Sobering Centres: Much like ‘drunk tanks’, but with more of a focus on medical care. These centres are purpose-built facilities that give drunks a bed for the night, provide low basic treatment such as blood pressure and blood sugar checks, and assess those who need hospital treatment.
**Booze Buses: A modified mini-bus type vehicle designed to shuttle multiple people to treatment or provide limited on-site treatment.

¹ New FOI figures provided to GLA Conservative Tony Arbour by the London Ambulance Service in 2014
² John Hamm, Robel Feleke, “Closing Time: Counting the Cost of Alcohol attributable hospital admissions in London” March 2012 http://www.lho.org.uk/viewResource.aspx?id=17713.
The report shows the total cost of alcohol specific admissions in London was £51m. 89% of these were emergency response admissions totaling £45m.
³ http://www.lape.org.uk/downloads/NI39%20Quarterly%20Trend%20Q1_2008-09%20to%20Q4_2012-13%20Provisional%20Summary.xlsx