MPs in call for review of 24-hour drinking laws after A&E staff are forced to hire security guards for night and …

  • Police officers and nurses groped, doctor kicked in the face, an inquiry heard
  • Round-the-clock drinking put ‘intolerable’ pressure on 999 services
  • Report attributes much of the blame to licensing laws imposed by Tony Blair
  • Recommends that 24-hour licences should be limited in ‘overwhelmed’ areas

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The 24-hour drinking laws imposed by Labour should be reviewed as they are wreaking havoc on emergency services, MPs warn.

A&E staff are being forced to hire security guards for nights and weekends, and fix televisions to walls to stop them being thrown.

Female police officers and nurses have reported being groped, while one doctor said he had been kicked in the face, an inquiry heard.

A drinker waits to be seen by doctors at an A&E department in Britain

A drinker waits to be seen by doctors at an A&E department in Britain

In one region, alcohol was behind half of police call-outs, and 86 per cent of officers had been attacked by drunks.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm concluded that round-the-clock drinking put ‘intolerable’ pressure on 999 services.

Its report attributes much of the blame to the 24-hour licensing laws imposed by Tony Blair in 2005.

These were intended to create a ‘cafe culture’ of drinking – similar to elsewhere in Europe – and end the rush at 11pm pub closing time. But today’s report calls for the laws to be ‘reviewed’ to ensure pubs and clubs are only granted licences once councils have assessed the impact on police and A&E units.

It recommends that in areas where 999 services are already overwhelmed, 24-hour licences should be limited. It also calls for the drink-drive limit to be slashed to the equivalent of half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine, and for councils to set up drunk tanks where revellers can sober up without creating chaos in A&E units.

MPs warn that Labour's 24-hour drinking policy has wreaked havoc on emergency services, file photograph

MPs warn that Labour’s 24-hour drinking policy has wreaked havoc on emergency services, file photograph

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, chairman of the group, said: ‘Alcohol-fuelled behaviour resulting in criminality, fires or accidents is adding intolerable – yet often unnecessary – pressure on vital resources, and to the work of our emergency services personnel.

‘It should be wholly unacceptable to hear of an A&E consultant being kicked in the face, medical staff having TVs thrown at them, or female police officers being sexually assaulted.

And it’s not just emergency staff who suffer; as this report describes, many other people are impacted too, from taxpayers who foot the bill, to patients who can’t be seen promptly, or worse, those innocent people killed in avoidable drunk driving accidents.’

The report calls for the drink-drive limit to be lowered from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg. This was enforced in Scotland in December 2014, and means an average woman would be over the limit if she had any more than half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine. An average man would not be able to consume more than a large glass of wine or a pint.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: 'Alcohol-fuelled behaviour resulting in criminality, fires or accidents is adding intolerable - yet often unnecessary - pressure on vital resources'

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: ‘Alcohol-fuelled behaviour resulting in criminality, fires or accidents is adding intolerable – yet often unnecessary – pressure on vital resources’

The inquiry took evidence from senior police officers, A&E consultants and paramedics, as well as local councils and MPs.

One witness said policewomen were routinely sexually assaulted, or ‘felt up’, whenever they entered a pub or club.

Some A&E staff said they hired security guards at peak times or fixed TVs to the walls, as otherwise they would be thrown by drunk patients.

Joanna Simons, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: ‘The costs of alcohol harm to the UK are huge, not only in terms of lives lost but also through the significant impact on society and our emergency services.

‘Alcohol costs us all, even when we’re not buying alcohol ourselves.

What this report highlights is the enormous pressure our emergency service staff face every day.’

Steve Irving, of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: ‘The ambulance service attends too many patients suffering from alcohol-related injuries or illnesses, many of which would not occur without the consumption of excess alcohol.

‘This takes valuable resources away from patients who may be seriously ill, so it is clear that more widespread safe drinking in moderation would significantly relieve the pressure on ambulance services and the wider health economy, especially emergency departments of local hospitals.’

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