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NHS to pay for Christmas drunk tanks across England

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So-called “drunk tanks” are being set up across England over the festive period to allow revellers who have overdone it to sleep off their excesses.

NHS England has set aside £300,000 to fund the safe areas where people who have had a few too many can be checked over, without having to go to A&E.

Figures show 12% to 15% of all attendances to emergency departments are alcohol related, but this can spike to up to 70% on Friday and Saturday evenings.

This Friday, the last before Christmas, is dubbed “Mad Friday” as workers across the country celebrate the start of the Christmas break, often with heavy drinking.

The drunk tank in Fairytale of New York Pic: ‎Pogue Mahone records
Image:
The drunk tank in Fairytale of New York Pic: ‎Pogue Mahone records

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens repeated his message that NHS “does not stand for National Hangover Service”.

“I have seen first-hand while out with ambulance crews in the run-up to last Christmas the problems that drunk and often aggressive people cause paramedics and A&E staff who just want to help those who need it most,” he said.

“We want to help other organisations take care of those who just need somewhere safe to get checked over and perhaps sleep it off.”

A Paris drunk tank, 1992
Image:
A Paris drunk tank, 1992

The drunk tanks, officially called Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (Aims), can be fixed or mobile, and are already used in some areas year-round including Exeter, Hereford, Norwich and Blackpool.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is due to publish a report into their effectiveness. NHS England will then decide whether to fund them all year round.

So-called drunk tanks may be mobile response units or stationary
Image:
So-called drunk tanks may be mobile response units or stationary

Although relatively new to the UK, drunk tanks have been used across Europe and in the US for many years.

Their place in festive folklore was cemented by the opening lines of the Pogues Christmas love song Fairytale of New York.

“it was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank

“An old man said to me ‘Won’t see another one’

“And then he sang a song ‘The Rare Old Mountain Dew’

“I turned my face away and dreamed about you”

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