Binge-drinkers 'turning NHS into national hangover service'

The NHS is being transformed into the "national hangover service" as binge-drinking diverts vital resources, the head of the health service in England has said.
Binge-drinkers are causing problems for the NHS.Binge-drinkers are causing problems for the NHS.
Binge-drinkers are causing problems for the NHS.

Simon Stevens condemned "selfish" party-goers in a stark warning as the nation geared up for one of the most alcohol-fuelled nights of the year.

The chief executive of NHS England added that the health service is already facing considerable strain from the annual spike in winter emergencies.

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Millions of revellers were expected to pack bars, pubs and clubs across the UK to celebrate the arrival of 2017 on Saturday night.

But the celebrations appear to come at a cost, as figures from the health service show that admissions for alcohol-related incidents rocket on the first day of the new year.

Mr Stevens said: "At a time of year when hospitals are always under pressure, caring for a spike in winter emergencies, it's really selfish to get so blotto that you end up in an ambulance or A&E.

"More than a third of A&E attendances at peak times are caused by drunkenness. Casualty nurses and doctors are understandably frustrated about the NHS being used as a national hangover service.

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"In our towns and cities this Christmas and new year, the paramedic called to a drunk party-goer passed out on the pavement is an ambulance crew obviously not then available for a genuine medical emergency."

His comments came as an Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) study released earlier this year revealed some damning data about alcohol, drug consumption and sexually transmitted infections in the UK.

The Health At A Glance: Europe 2016 report found 33% of British girls aged 15 had been drunk at least twice in their lives - a figure only exceeded by rates in Denmark and Hungary.

The report also found the UK had the highest cocaine use among those aged 15-34 compared with other OECD countries, as well as easily the highest rate of gonorrhoea notifications.

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On sexual health, Mr Stevens said: "In your 20s you feel immortal, but that doesn't mean you're invincible. Young, free and single is great, but infections are on the rise, so the NHS advice is 'open your eyes to STIs'."