Do alternative treatment services for drunk revellers reduce the burden on emergency services?

Do alternative treatment services for drunk revellers reduce the burden on emergency services?

Date: 29 November 2017

As the festive season gets underway, the number of revellers in our town and city centres rises sharply.

NIHR-funded researchers are assessing whether bespoke treatment services are an effective way of treating people with acute alcohol intoxication and if they can lessen the burden on A&E departments.

The findings of the study are due in 2018 and are intended to provide evidence on whether alcohol intoxication management services should be rolled out as a standard means of managing drunk patients.

Emergency departments around the world are familiar with alcohol-related attendances, especially from acute alcohol intoxication and its related injuries. In the UK, it is estimated that 12-15% of patients attending emergency departments are there from acute alcohol intoxication. Attendances peak on Friday and Saturday evenings when up to 70% of all attendances can be alcohol-related.

In addition to increasing the workload of emergency departments, and the waiting time for other patients, around 40% of intoxicated patients also arrive by ambulance, possibly diverting them away from other emergencies.

The study is being led by researchers at Cardiff and Sheffield universities.

Professor Simon Moore, from Cardiff University's Violence and Society Research Group, said: “Highly intoxicated people can be a burden and disruptive influence on the emergency healthcare system and its other patients.

“While the UK and other countries around the world have explored a variety of different services that can divert intoxicated people away from emergency departments there has been very little formal evaluation of their effectiveness, particularly in the UK where the level of alcohol misuse is one of the highest in the world.”

In the UK, several towns and cities have implemented bespoke services to divert intoxicated people away from emergency departments. While the services are diverse all have common features, such as being run by multiple agencies and being located in or near areas with a high density of licensed premises.

Professor Moore added: “By comparing data from cities with and without bespoke services, we hope to get a clearer picture of their effectiveness for the patients, cost effectiveness and impact on frontline staff involved in managing intoxication.”

Professor Moore’s paper ‘Managing alcohol-related attendances in emergency care: can diversion to bespoke services lessen the burden?’ is published in Emergency Medicine Journal.

More information on the study is available on the NIHR Journals Library website.

  • Summary:
    NIHR-funded researchers are assessing whether bespoke treatment services are an effective way of treating people with acute alcohol intoxication and if they can lessen the burden on A&E departments.
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  • Year of publication:
    2017
  • Specialty:
    • Public Health
    • Injuries and Emergencies
    • Health Services and Delivery Research
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