A&E chief: treat our drunks on the street

An Ambulance outside Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Wigan hospital
An Ambulance outside Accident and Emergency (A&E) at Wigan hospital

A WIGAN medic has called for more nightclubbers suffering from alcoholic excess to be treated on the streets rather than clog up A&E.

Bosses at Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) have already adopted a zero tolerance policy when it comes to physical and verbal abuse of staff, stating that the police will be called and the trust will push for prosecution.

But one senior physician today called for measures which might avoid some of the problems in the first place - putting frontline staff in the town centres so reducing the need for potential trouble-makers to come to casualty and cutting A&E waiting times.

This comes following figures which show that between January 2013 and February this year, police officers were called out to incidents in Wigan town centre on 911 occasions up until February this year. Most of these were related to violence, with victims attending A&E, putting extra strain on its services.

Ayaz Abbasi, WWL consultant in emergency medicine and clinical director, believes more should be done to curb drinking and says medics should be out in the town centre to treat people without clogging up the A&E.

He said: “We see a lot of patients with drink-related injuries at weekends. They have to spend the night in hospital and they are occupying beds. Some of our other patients who are unwell from other causes have to wait for a bed because of these intoxicated people.

“We are not coping well with the number of patients coming to our departments. We accept we need to treat those with alcohol-related injuries and illnesses, but we need to also concentrate on people who are genuinely sick, rather than just having excess alcohol.

“These people may need attention but not necessarily in hospital. This treatment could be provided elsewhere with medics and ambulance crew available in the town centre.

“The other effect of alcohol, is that they can become aggressive and verbally abusive to our staff and can also be disruptive to other patients. These patients require extra input from our staff because they need to control these patients.”

Members of Royal College of Nursing have also spoken out against drunken revellers wasting time and resources.

They claim drunks should be banned from being treated in A&E because becoming intoxicated “is no accident,” and that they are clogging up casualty departments every day to the detriment of seriously ill patients.

Nurses are also calling for special units in city centres or hospitals where people can sober up to be piloted across the country.

Dr Abbasi added: “I am a trained doctor and cannot refuse treatment.

“These people may be alcohol-dependant and have long term effects on their liver functions or they may have been assaulted. Unless we see the patient, we do not know if they are safe to be sent home.

“There needs to be a national debate on tackling these problems.”