Ambulance services around the country were bracing themselves for the busiest night of the year on Saturday as they pleaded with revellers to celebrate the New Year responsibly. The comments follow those by NHS chief, Simon Stevens, who said the health service was increasingly being treated as the "National Hangover Service."
Deputy Director of Operations for the service, Kevin Bate said: "We want Londoners to have a great time this New Year but, we also need them to look after themselves and their friends. Too often our crews can spend much of their night caring for people who are vomiting, violent or unconscious after a night out drinking, leaving them unable to respond to other emergencies."
He explained that because many of the call outs for people who had over-indulged on New Year's Eve were for unresponsive patients, which meant they had to be prioritised since staff could not tell from a call alone whether those patients were seriously ill.
Consequently, he said: "This means other patients such as an elderly faller or someone involved in a road traffic collision will wait longer for an ambulance."
Those pleas were echoed by services around the country as Shaun Murray, Dispatcher for the North West Ambulance Service, said: "New Year's Eve is always an extremely manic evening in our Emergency Operations Centre, which can made more difficult when we receive calls from drunk and abusive callers.
"New Year's Eve is a time to celebrate and have fun, but please don't let your night end in disaster. Remember to drink sensibly and if you're out and about, dress appropriately, stay with friends and keep your taxi money separate."
Speaking with The Telegraph, Stevens said over a third of visits to Accident and Emergency departments during peak times were alcohol-related. He added that resources used on "blotto" party-goers were not being used on genuine emergencies, and that the increasing drain on resources was "frustrating" for NHS staff.
Stevens said: "At a time of year when hospitals are always under pressure caring for a spike in winter emergencies, it's really selfish to get so blotto that you end up in an ambulance or an A&E.
"In our towns and cities this Christmas and New Year, the paramedic called to a drunk partygoer passed out on the pavement is an ambulance crew obviously not then available for a genuine medical emergency," he added.