Managing alcohol-related attendances in emergency care: can diversion to bespoke services lessen the burden?
As the festive season gets underway, and the number of revellers in our town and city centres rises sharply, researchers at Cardiff and Sheffield Universities are assessing whether bespoke treatment services are an effective way of treating acutely intoxicated people and lessening the burden on overstretched emergency care services.
The findings of the study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, 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 intoxicated 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’s estimated that 12-15% of patients attending emergency departments are there from acute alcohol intoxication. Not surprisingly, 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.
Professor Simon Moore, from Cardiff University's Violence and Society Research Group, said: “Highly intoxicated people can be a massive 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.”