Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 11:36 UK

Drink drain on ambulance response

A drunk man passed out on a street
More than two-thirds of weekend ambulance call-outs were drink-related

The majority of ambulance calls in Scotland at weekends are alcohol-related, BBC Scotland can reveal.

Ambulance Service figures released to the BBC suggested 68% of weekend calls have drink as a major cause.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said these types of calls were delaying its response to real emergencies.

Labour called for a "national consensus" to tackle alcohol abuse but an SNP MSP said ministers had already proposed radical action on the issue.

The Scottish Ambulance Service figures were compiled from records kept by ambulance crews over each weekend since April 2009. The statistics specifically referred to Fridays, Saturdays and the early hours of each Sunday.

I want our emergency services to be dealing with people who really need them, not having to spend all their time mopping up the damage caused by alcohol
Anne McLaughlin MSP

Anne McLaughlin, an MSP for Glasgow, who recently joined an ambulance crew in Glasgow on a Saturday night said the figures matched what she had seen.

"Spending the night working with Glasgow's paramedics showed me how much of their time is spent dealing with the impact of alcohol," she said.

"Whether it is people hurting themselves in drink-related accidents, ending up so drunk they need hospitalisation or the end result of alcohol-induced violence, all the cases we saw on a Saturday night shift involved alcohol.

"I want our emergency services to be dealing with people who really need them, not having to spend all their time mopping up the damage caused by alcohol."

She praised the Scottish government's proposals - which include introducing a minimum price for alcohol - but called on all individuals "to think about what we're drinking and the effect that has on ourselves and public services".

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Cathy Jamieson said the next stage of Scotland's alcohol strategy must include action to tackle anti-social behaviour and violence.

'National disgrace'

She called for a package of measures including a mandatory 'Challenge 21' scheme to stop booze getting into the hands of children, alcohol treatment and testing orders to tackle problem drinking and more resources for police to enforce the Licensing Act.

She described Scotland's hard-drinking culture as "a national disgrace".

"This situation cannot be allowed to continue because if ambulance crews are attending to drunks they may not be available for a genuine emergency," she said.

"This is just one of the reasons we need a national consensus to tackle alcohol abuse."

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