North East's A&Es and emergency workers braced for high demand over Christmas as people use drink as 'coping mechanism'

The North East’s hospitals and emergency services are preparing for a rise in demand as people increasingly turn to booze to deal with stress and depression over Christmas.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 5:16 pm
The region's hospital, police and paramedic expect a busy few weeks ahead as people party or turn to alcohol during the stressful festive period.

Today – Black Eye Friday, December 20 – they have joined forces to warn of the consequences of excessive drinking, placing additional pressures on services already more stretched than ever during the winter months.

It comes as new research from Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, shows 87% of the region’s adults associate alcohol with disorderly behaviour, 75% with domestic abuse, 63% with violent crime and 68% with ill health.

Alcohol costs the region’s public services and employers billions each year in terms of hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and treatment for alcohol dependency, with a bill of millions more from crime and disorder.

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Figures for 2015/16 show the cost would equate to £386 per head for every man, woman and child in the North East.

Kate Lambert, consultant in emergency medicine at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “Alcohol creates problems for us all year round, but it gets worse at Christmas.

“The Emergency Department is the place people require after they’ve injured themselves or got so intoxicated that they are semi-conscious.

“Alcohol is a factor in many of the assaults that we see, in and outside the home.

“We see a lot of patients who use alcohol as a coping mechanism and who are drinking most days, often drinking more than they would like to, and not really enjoying their drinking.

“Underneath it there can be a lot of unhappiness, either with work or relationships, and sometimes anxiety and depression.

“The stresses of Christmas can often make this a difficult time and so we see more people coming in with the physical effects of drinking, such as liver disease or a rise in mental health presentations, with people feeling at risk of harming themselves or actually harming themselves.”

The North East Ambulance Service reports last year it saw a 50% increase in calls overall from 6pm on Friday, December 21 to 6am on Saturday, December 22, compared to other Fridays in 2018.

NEAS also received 1650 calls on New Year’s Day compared to around 1,000 on an average day.