Here’s what the chairman of the police federation in England said in 2012:
‘To recommend locking people up in so-called ‘drunk tanks’ to resolve the issue of binge drinking is dangerous. People who are very drunk can be vulnerable and often require medical attention, so locking them in a confined space is not an effective solution.’
This view was echoed in the Independent:
‘However, hospital representatives said these cases often had other serious injuries that needed assessment and no policy should be introduced without an evaluation of the evidence base.’
Having investigated drunk tanks in 2009 and identified the above risks, there are no such tanks in Scotland and the government has said they have no plans to introduce them.
Further, there is little evidence that drunks have been responsible for major spikes in attendance. According to the Scotsman:
‘A&E waiting times hit by surge in fall injuries after icy weather.’
So, it was ice on the paths not ‘on the rocks’ that caused increased attendance in December, by as much as 48%, in Inverness and the BMJ has identified, at most, 15% of A&E attendances being down to acute alcohol intoxication.
Finally, in another dubious response to increased demand from the elderly, some NHS England areas are planning to make non-specialist nurses and GPs answer 999 calls, ahead of paramedics, to deal with cases such as patients who have fallen in their own homes or residential homes. However, in the Independent, the risks in morphine administration in these contexts are highlighted:
‘Doctors’ groups warn that other parts of the NHS are also at maximum capacity and say suggestion GPs could offer morphine is ‘unsafe’ without proper facilities.’
‘Not all nurses are routinely trained to the levels that paramedics are, but even where nurses are trained experts have warned that morphine should only be administered where there are facilities for ‘continuous observation and respiratory support should it be required’. Because this is unlikely to be available at peoples’ homes, some say safer alternatives should be considered.’
I can find no sign that NHS Scotland plans any such action. Indeed, the Scottish Ambulance Service seems calm, ready and merely tweeting advice. It won’t be icy tonight so it will be very interesting to see how the A&E figures are compared to the icy week earlier in December.