Never underestimate just how much Britain's drinking culture costs the NHS. As an ambulance man, I see it
They live together in squalor: both suffer from the diseases of the liver that we only used to see in people past their 40th birthday. Dried and bloody vomit covers the cooker. Both patients are in their early 20s.
The British Liver Trust has released figures showing that admissions due to alcohol have more than doubled in the last 12 years. Alcohol was the main or secondary cause of 207,800 NHS admissions in 2006/7. These are people who have been admitted into hospital due to the effects of drinking.
My patient, who is 24, has been incontinent. He is also covered in vomit. He is bleeding from a cut on his forehead caused when he passed out drunk.
Take another look at those figures - they are equivalent to 23 people an hour, or one person every two and a half minutes being admitted to hospital. And they do not include the much higher figure of those that received emergency treatment due to alcohol use but who didn't need to be admitted overnight into hospital.
Our Control asks if there are any ambulances available for a child who is having a seizure. I can't respond because at the moment I have in the back of my ambulance a vomiting woman who swears blind that her 10th pint of lager was spiked.
The London Ambulance Service has seen the number of calls due to alcohol increase by 12% in the last two years. In a 10-month period, they responded to 38,849 alcohol related calls. Due to the way in which this information is gathered the actual number is much higher.
A week after 24-hour drinking licences have been brought in, and at 10am I'm standing outside the local nightclub, where one drunk has been pushed down the stairs by another. His head is bleeding and as he rolls around the inside of the ambulance his blood splatters against my uniform.
The Academy of Medical Sciences warned in a report last year that the government needs to overhaul the current drug classification. By any measure, alcohol would be a Class A drug, as it is incredibly addictive and has serious effects on health.
We've battered down the door to the flat, as his ex-wife hasn't seen him in weeks. We are met with a vision of carnage; he died by vomiting out nearly all the blood in his body. Dried blood is on the bed, the walls and the ceiling. He looks 60 but was in his 40s.
British society now seems perfectly comfortable with self-inflicted alcohol poisoning. Until that changes, and it becomes culturally unacceptable to burden the NHS with emergency cases whose suffering is completely avoidable, ambulance crews will continue to struggle to deal with the ugly, expensive consequences.
source: The Guardian U.K