With its usual round of parties and festive drinking, as Christmas approaches, spare a thought for the emergency services who will be dealing with an influx of patients suffering from the effects of alcohol-related injuries and illnesses.
While most of us are enjoying ourselves, some people will be having one too many, without thinking of the impact it has on our already-overstretched NHS. Binge-drinking can have a massively detrimental effect on our hospital services.
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If people don’t take proper care of themselves over the festive period, it can have serious consequences. While enjoying a social drink with family and friends at this time of the year is important, it’s equally important to understand your limits when it comes to alcohol.
Guidelines on safe amounts of alcohol consumption were updated by the UK’s chief medical officers in 2016. The latest advice suggests men and women who are regular drinkers should consume a maximum of 14 units per week. This equates to seven glasses of wine, or six pints of beer.
The guidelines also suggest that if you drink alcohol, the safest way to do so is to drink a moderate amount over three or more days, leaving some days totally alcohol-free to give your body chance to recover. Unfortunately, over Christmas, people tend to lose track of how much they’ve had to drink when on a night out.
It’s too easy to consume the 14 units of alcohol in one night, rather than over the space of a week. Medical experts say it’s not safe to try and “save up” your units to consume them all in one night, as heavy drinking sessions are dangerous, increasing the risks of accidents, injuries or even alcohol poisoning.
Effects of excess alcohol
Statistics show that thousands of people will put their lives at risk over the Christmas period as a result of excess alcohol. The number of people requiring hospital treatment across the UK due to alcohol-related incidents has risen to an astounding 126,000 in the 16 to 34-year-olds age-group.
Over the past five years, the number of Christmas visits to the hospital as a result of excess alcohol has steadily risen by 20%, as people ignore medical advice on the perils of over indulging. The number of women has risen by 26%, as many of them feel that can match their male counterparts’ drinking habits.
Self-inflicted damage due to drinking is costing the NHS a staggering £3 billion every year, with a spike in admissions every Christmas, according to the College of Emergency Medicine – the cost comes through medication, occupying beds and treatments.
The most common injuries are broken bones and head injuries caused by a fall due to being drunk, coupled with long-term medical issues, such as liver and heart problems.
Medical chiefs say they’re not killjoys who are saying people shouldn’t drink, but rather they are reminding revellers that excessive drinking can cause life-threatening health issues.
Effects on the NHS
Alcohol-related patients put a severe strain on hospital A&E departments. On a regular basis, studies show one in 10 emergency patients attending hospital are there through alcohol-related injuries or conditions. The number increases at the weekend – and increases even more at Christmas.
The College of Emergency Medicine says urgent action must be taken, because the pressure on hospitals is “unsustainable”. Some medical chiefs are suggesting the only way to alleviate pressure on hospitals is for the police to arrest more drunk people, in the hope it will act as a deterrent to others.
Taxi drivers have reported “scraping people up off the floor” after finding them collapsed on the pavement outside pubs and rushing them to A&E. Other people are getting into alcohol-induced fights, as their inebriated state has exaggerated any feelings of aggression. They end up at A&E with injuries sustained during brawls.
Many A&E staff face verbal and physical abuse from drunken patients. In an effort to free up hospital beds that would otherwise be used by drunk patients, London Ambulance Service has set up an alcohol recovery centre in central London. Drunk individuals can be taken there rather than A&E to relieve the pressure on hospitals, that on average deal with 20 people a night, most of whom require an overnight stay. Most of the patients tend to be young females who have overdone it.
Statistics show that in the UK, the 12 days of Christmas have traditionally become an excuse for some people to go on a 12-day booze bender that begins as soon as they clock off work on Christmas Eve.
Hospital paramedics say many people who’ve had too much to drink over the festive period are either found in a state of collapse in the town centres and are taken to A&E, or they are so drunk they’re out of control, don’t know what to do and ring an ambulance because they don’t know who else to call.
The real cost to the NHS is that people who have self-inflicted injuries and illnesses due to not knowing when to stop drinking are taking up hospital beds that are desperately needed for genuinely sick people.
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